The Deputy Director of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Kolawole Oluwadare, has said that the group has been consistent in criticizing government actions because it wants good governance not marred by politics, tribe, or religious sentiments. This, he said, is much more important because of the state of the economy, the rising costs of things, and the lack of adherence to the economic rights of Nigerians. He also said that the law permits them to engage in the advocacy, according to Section Six of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). “These issues are public interest matters and we do not have any peculiar interest,” he said.
However, Oluwadare was asked about SERAP’s claim that the Tinubu administration failed to probe alleged missing funds from unaccounted oil revenues and money for the repair of the nation’s refineries between 2020 and 2021. He said that the group’s position, which is currently in court, is predicated on the NEITI Oil and Gas Report 2021 which was released earlier in 2023. Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is an agency of government tasked with the responsibility primarily to ensure accountability and transparency in the management of Nigerian oil revenue and resources.
Citizens cannot fold their hands if government disobeys the courts.
According to him, the initiative has published its report where it made those allegations. And since the reports are classified as public documents, citizens and non-governmental groups can take it up. He added that constitutionally, the president ought to ensure that these allegations are thoroughly investigated and individuals culpable of them should face the law. “You will agree with me that these funds are very much needed this time and they should be recovered and put back in the public treasury for the use of the common Nigerians,” he said.
Speaking on the very many situations when the government has refused to follow court rulings from suits on transparency and accountability issues, Oluwadare said that whether the government adheres or not, the rulings remain the judgments of the court and the group’s advocacy is to compel the government to obey these judgments which naturally should not be so. He said that court judgements are valid and sacrosanct, but even though the government has refused to obey these democratic ideals, citizens cannot fold their hands. “We will continue to put more pressure on the governance, and we call on the Nigerian people to join in this advocacy to ensure that these judgments are enforced,” he added.
Basic amenities are unavailable in courtrooms.
Meanwhile, while describing Nigeria’s judicial system in terms of the dispensation of justice, the deputy director said that it is very important to understand the context in rating the practice of the judiciary. This is because corruption in Nigeria has created an ineffective system all across the board, and even the basic amenities that should be in the courtroom to aid the course and the dispensation of justice are unavailable. He said that courtrooms should have uninterrupted power supply and in fact videographers who will take audio and video recordings of proceedings to aid the dispensation of justice.
This does not exist in most Nigerian courts. Oluwadare stated that the judges are even overworked because the cases before them are more than they can handle. These are some of the issues that are bedevilling the judiciary. As a lawyer and member of the bar, he said that he understood these constraints, which the judiciary has to battle in dispensing justice. “That is why this advocacy needs to be consistent to ensure that corruption is minimized so that public amenities, including those at the court, will be able to serve the people,” he said.
Financial autonomy of the judiciary is yet to be implemented.
Finally, he revealed that SERAP has been at the forefront of the call for the financial independence of the judiciary. This includes the improvement in the remuneration for judges and justices, which has not been done. The judiciary is independent, and this is clearly written in the constitution. Hence, the judiciary must be independent administratively, financially, or politically. This has not really worked out in practical terms. The SERAP boss said that the law has been amended, but in practice, not much has happened. “Part of our advocacy is also to ensure that the judiciary is fully independent,” he remarked. Achieving that reinforces the ability to be impartial and effective in the dispensation of justice.
SERAP Nigeria: Website