By Adedapo Adesanya
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the allegations on the missing, mismanaged or diverted $30 million Safe School Fund.
The group made this call in a statement signed by its Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, and further asked the President to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to bring to justice anyone involved in the alleged fraud.
Also, SERAP called on Mr Buhari to “direct Mr Malami and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate why the Safe Schools Initiative, established to bolster security at schools in response to the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls has failed to stop frequent abductions of students and to ensure the safety and security of Nigerian children in schools across the country.”
SERAP further urged President Buhari to “ask the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr Gordon Brown, to wait for the outcome of any investigation into the spending of the $30 million initially budgeted for the Safe School Initiative programme before leading the international community and donors to push for more funds for the programme.”
SERAP’s letter followed the killing of three abducted Greenfield University students and the plan launched by the federal government last week to raise additional funds for safe schools.
The organisation noted that, “Rather than pushing to raise more funds for the Safe School Initiative programme, your government should prioritise and ensure a thorough, transparent, and effective investigation into the spending of the $30 million initially budgeted for the protection of schools, prevention of attacks, and continued education of students.
“SERAP will also consider asking Mr Brown to use his influence to insist on transparency and accountability in the spending of the $30 million safe school fund before rushing to engage donors to commit to additional funding of the Safe School Initiative programme.”
Also, it asked the 36 state governors to accept voluntary scrutiny by Nigerians and civil society regarding the spending of any funds spearheaded and raised to improve safety and security in Nigerian schools
“Despite the $30 million safe school fund meant to ensure safety and security in 500 schools, and to provide a school environment free of fear, no school has been protected, as illustrated by the recent spate of abductions and killings of students in several parts of the country.
“Allegations of corruption in the spending of the $30 million safe school fund undermine the safety and security of Nigerian children in schools and deny access of poor children to quality education in a safe environment because the money that the government should be spending to provide safe schools for Nigerian children is squandered or stolen.
“The Nigerian government has a legal obligation to protect Nigerian children from all forms of violence and other human rights abuses including abductions, killings, and to prevent and combat corruption in the spending of funds budgeted to improve safety and security in schools”.
According to SERAP, attacks on students, teachers, and their families violate constitutional and international human rights law and force many families to keep their children home. This aggravates existing disparities in access to education, further marginalizing the poor.
“The government’s apparent failure to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the $30 million safe school fund is contrary to the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], and violates Nigeria’s obligations under international law and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
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