By Ebitonye Akpodigha
Wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience, has instituted a lawsuit against the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) over an alleged vilification and breach of human rights.
Mrs Jonathan said the group carried out a campaign of calumny against her on the internet, print and electronic media, publishing unfounded and malicious allegations that she stole $15 million and was supposed to be prosecuted by the Federal Government.
The former First Lady also urged the court to grant her an interim order restraining SERAP from writing about her in the media.
In a statement dated October 20, 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director, Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization disclosed that, “On 18th October 2016 at about 3pm, we received court papers dated 6th October 2016 from a bailiff.
“The papers indicate that one Union of Niger Delta Youth Organization for Equity, Justice and Good Governance suing for themselves and on behalf of Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan filed a suit number FHC/L/CS/1349/2016 before a Federal High Court in Lagos against SERAP.”
Mr Mumuni narrated further that, “The court papers also indicate a prayer for an order of interim injunction restraining SERAP from taking any further steps in further vilification, condemnation and conviction of the Former First Lady Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan, in all public media and in the use of the judicial process for that purpose by the extremely publicized pursuit of any application for the coercion of the Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute the Plaintiff/Applicant for owning legitimate private property, pending the hearing and determination of the Originating Summons.” He said the suit was seeking an order directing SERAP to stay all action and to desist forthwith from proceeding against Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan, with any process whatsoever, pending the hearing and determination of the Originating Summons.
“SERAP was also served a separate application to be joined in the suit number FHC/L/CS/1318/2016 earlier filed by SERAP against the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, over allegations of $15m unexplained wealth against Mrs Jonathan,” the SERAP boss quoted the lawsuit as saying.
However, reacting to the suit, Mr Mumuni said, “SERAP categorically rejects these misleading and entirely unfounded accusations against us by Mrs Patience Jonathan and her group, and we will vigorously oppose the suit in court.
“SERAP will never, in the discharge of its mandates, succumb to any intimidation, harassment and attacks in any way, shape or form. We are now consulting with our lawyers and will be preparing shortly our defence in court.”
“At no time did SERAP suggest or even hint that Mrs Jonathan was guilty of the allegations against her.
“On the contrary, what SERAP has said is that the fact that the $15m found in the four accounts belong to Mrs Jonathan raises serious suspicion or at the very least a prima-facie case of unexplained wealth/illicit enrichment, and imposes an obligation on Mrs Jonathan to explain and justify the source(s) of the $15m.
“To be sure, SERAP is not engaged in any campaign against Mrs Jonathan or any other politically exposed persons for that matter.
“Our suit was filed against the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and not Mrs Jonathan. It’s a joke to accuse SERAP of trying to coerce the Attorney General to perform his constitutional duty, as this is for the court to decide,” Mr Mumuni said.
He added that, “SERAP consistently strives to ensure that its human rights and accountability work meet international standards and the highest standards of analytical rigor devoid of bias or assumptions as to individual’s guilt.
“Mrs Jonathan should end her attacks on an NGO simply working to make the government function to improve the conditions of millions of marginalized and disadvantaged Nigerians.
“Our work is driven solely by the fundamental principles of justice, impartiality, solidarity, universality of human rights, transparency and accountability in the management of Nigeria’s resources and wealth.
“We believe that it is through action that we have taken in this matter that the government can be motivated to live up to its commitments and to meet the expectations of Nigerians for good governance, human rights and the rule of law.”
ICPC Uncovers N7bn Padded in Budget as Empowerment Projects
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr Bolaji Owasanoye, has disclosed that the agency has discovered the fraudulent insertion of over N7 billion in the budget by some politicians as empowerment projects.
He made this disclosure at the 4th National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector held at the State House Conference Centre on Tuesday in Abuja.
“Just last week, the commission, in collaboration with the Budget Office and stakeholders, met with some MDAs on the recurring surpluses in their payroll to determine proactive measures to improve the budget process. We also actively review the budget to prevent abuse by senior civil servants and PEPs who sometimes personalise budgetary allocation for direct benefit. In one case, a PEP successfully increased an agency’s budget for the agency to buy a property from him.
“In another case, the PEP inserted soft projects worth over N7 billion for a catchment population of about one million in the name of empowerment. Both cases are under investigation,” Mr Owasanoye revealed at the event.
He further said that the intensified scrutiny of personnel and capital cost of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) by ICPC has led to proactive restrictions of surpluses or duplications in the budget, decrying how some unscrupulous persons undermined the system by abusing the budgetary process for their gains.
He said ICPC reviews of special funds meant to improve education delivery such as UBEC and TETFUND has also revealed continued abuses and breach of procurement standards and compromise of statutory mandates while a System Study and review on SUBEB in six states for 2019-2020 revealed that the intention of UBE law to support states to improve basic education is frustrated by lack of commitment by state governments in not providing matching grants amongst other defaults.
The ICPC boss also disclosed that the commission, in support of the government’s effort to improve revenue generation, has recovered N1.264 billion in tax in 2022, maintaining that the organisation would continue to investigate the diversion of tax and other statutory revenues.
The keynote speaker and former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, decried how some reform policies formulated with good intentions are often circumscribed by endemic in the education sector.
He listed such reforms to include the Procurement Act 2007, which requires that contracts of certain threshold should seek approval either at the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) or the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP), the requirement by members of the National Assembly that every Vice-Chancellor must appear to defend their budgetary proposals before funds would be appropriated and the recent requirement by the federal government that no university should recruit any staff, even to fully existing vacancies, without at least three layers of approvals by the Federal bureaucracy at the NUC, Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
“All these three policies/measures, in spite of the good intentions, which may have underlined them, not only undermined the relative autonomy of the universities but have also introduced extraneous relations and influences laden with corrupt practices. Submissions made by Vice Chancellors to, especially, MTBs often returned with reversed contract awards for extraneous and inexplicable reasons,” he said.
“In the past, the NUC presented and defended the budget for federal universities, and appropriated funds were shared/allocated to universities transparently, using a widely known formula. Nowadays, VCs who go to the National Assembly to present/defend their universities’ budgets are ‘compelled’ or ‘induced’ to make deals in order to either prevent cuts in their budgetary proposals or so as to get substantial padding in their appropriations for projects to be executed solely by the Senator who negotiated the deal.
“With regards to obtaining approval, prior to recruitment or replacement of staff, there is evidence to suggest that VCs have to guarantee slots for the approving authorities to secure approvals. In filling those slots, no regard is paid to advertised vacancies, and required qualifications for the positions and, almost invariably, more unrequited non-academic staff are employed, further distorting the ratio of non-academic staff to academic staff in the NUC guidelines,” he added.
While speaking on the negative consequences of corruption in the education sector, Professor Jega observed that its solutions could not be found in isolation, saying strategies for its resolution would necessarily have to be in the context of a comprehensive grand strategy for addressing corruption in the wider public sector.
He also called for an active citizenry to demand quality education for their children, saying doing so would make the sector accountable.
The high point of the summit was the presentation of the Public Service Integrity Award to Superintendent Daniel Itse Amah, a police officer who rejected a bribe of $200,000 from an armed robbery syndicate, and the presentation of a plaque and a painting made by an ICPC officer, Mamman Kuru John, using the most recent and modern mode of painting known as impacto.
Spleet Raises $2.6m to Spread Rent Offerings, Products to Nigerians
By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigerian prop-tech startup, Spleet, has closed a $2.6 million seed round to scale its residential rent-focused products.
The funds were provided by MaC Venture Capital, Noemis Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Assembly Fund, Ajim Capital, Francis Fund, as well as Metaprop VC and HoaQ Fund.
This fresh injection followed the $625,000 pre-seed funding round raised by the company in March.
Since its inception, Spleet has processed millions in rent, housed over 1,000 tenants and onboarded over 35 individual and corporate landlords.
With the funding, the startup plans to expand its product offerings to include Collect, a service that automatically receives rent payments on behalf of landlords; Verify, a tool that enables landlords and real estate agents to vet and carry out adequate background checks on tenants before offering lease agreements; and Rent Now Pay Later, a no collateral, affordable-interest rate rental loan product.
The Rent Now, Pay Later, which has been in the testing phase since December, gives renters access to no-collateral loans up to N3 million with an interest of about 3.5 per cent monthly to finance rent payments.
It is built on the back of payroll access, with a handful of users who make a one-month down payment while the company finances the remaining 11 months.
Speaking on the funding, Mr Tola Adesanmi said, “This funding would go into deepening our product offerings for landlords, real estate agents and tenants across Nigeria and testing out new markets.”
“The housing crisis is an enormous problem that impacts us at a global scale, and Africa is no exception,” said Mr Marlon Nichols, co-founder and managing general partner at MaC Venture Capital.
“In countries like Nigeria, the requirement for tenants to provide 12-to-24 months of rent payment in advance creates a barrier for large parts of the population in accessing the rental market and essentially renders them homeless. MaC is proud to partner with Spleet as it continues to bring forward a comprehensive solution that effectively serves both sides of the housing market and makes true deposits to combating homelessness,” he added.
Founded by Mr Adesanmi in 2018 from the need to find rentals with flexible payment options in Lagos as opposed to the usual one or two-year upfront payment options, Spleet allows homeowners to rent their apartments to vetted individuals while also helping people easily find places to stay.
The startup enables landlords to verify and scrutinise tenants and also automates rent collections. Its nonperforming loans ratio recorded so far stands at 1.2 per cent.
Nigeria Inaugurates Mini Grids Programme to Expand Clean Energy Access
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has inaugurated the Africa Mini Grids Programme (AMP) to support access to clean energy in Nigeria.
Mr Ayang Ogbe, the Director of Promotions at REA, said this in a statement in Abuja, noting that the four-year project was being funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria.
He said that the programme aims to increase the financial viability and promote scaled-up commercial investment in renewable energy mini-grids, focusing on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.
According to him, the renewable energy mini-grids are with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.
“The programme is active in 21 African countries, and the Nigeria national project implemented by the REA is the first to commence implementation following the official inauguration at an inception workshop.
“The workshop was hosted in collaboration with representatives from the UNDP, GEF, Federal Ministries of Power, Environment and Agriculture as well as other key stakeholders in the rural development space,” he said.
Mr Ogbe said that the Africa mini-grids programme in Nigeria was designed as an enabler project of the REA’s Energising Agriculture Programme (EAP).
He said that EAP aims to advance one of REA’s strategic priorities of focusing on the unserved and underserved to increase economic opportunities.
”Through agriculture and productive sectors in rural communities across the country, this objective is in line with the mandate of the REA to catalyse economic growth and improve the quality of life for rural Nigerians.
Speaking on the project, Mr Mohamed Yahya, the UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, said that the UNDP was delighted with the inauguration of the Africa mini-grids programme in Nigeria with the REA as the project’s implementing partner.
He said, “access to reliable, sustainable, affordable energy is a catalyst to socio-economic development, and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
“By scaling up solutions such as renewable energy mini-grids, we will be able to close the energy access gap and unlock opportunities for people in Nigeria and across the region,” he said.
On his part, Mr Jonah Stanley, GEF Operational Focal Point at the Federal Ministry of Environment, emphasised the significance of the programme, which he sees as central to issues.
“Such as security, climate change, food production and strengthening economies while protecting ecosystems.”
The statement quoted the Managing Director of the REA, Mr Salihijo Ahmad, “commending the collaborative spirit of the agency’s partners and stakeholders that enabled the activation of the programme.”
Mr Ahmad said that the Africa mini-grids programme would serve as another catalyst for improved access to sustainable energy and equitable and inclusive impact on livelihoods by unlocking agricultural value addition opportunities from electrification.
He said, “this sectoral approach is in line with the agency’s focus on programmes to advance the electrification targets and broader social and economic development objectives of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The statement also quoted Mr Sanusi Ohiare, the Executive Director, Rural Electrification Fund (REF) at the REA as saying, “there is the need to enhance the viability of mini-grids and the impact of electrification”.
“To this end, the programme will deploy pilot mini-grids to achieve the electrification of rural communities and agricultural value chain.”
Mr Ohiare said that the project would also establish the most appropriate solutions and business models while amplifying the knowledge gained to catalyse private investment.”
The AMP in Nigeria will contribute to SDG 7, which is (Affordable and Clean Energy), Goal 13 (Climate Action) and Goal 5 (Gender Equality), with an estimate of 70,063 direct project beneficiaries, out of which 34,559 are women.
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