The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva  to explain within 14 days how the ministry under their watch spent the sum of N116 million to purchase pens, letterhead and toners in 2015.

Recall that President Buhari doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, while Sylva serves as a junior minister overseeing the affairs of the nation’s petroleum ministry.

Last Thursday, the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation had claimed this amount was used to acquire these items in one year by the ministry, which has Mr Timipre Sylva, as the junior minister. This confession was made to the Senate Committee on Public Accounts.

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This disclosure generated reactions in the country and one of the rights groups, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) wants an explanation from the President and his junior minister, Sylva.

SERAP also wants to know the amount spent on the same items between 2016 and 2020. The right group also called for prosecution, should there be evidence of misuse of public funds.

According to the organisation, “Transparency and openness in the spending by your ministry would ensure the public trust, efficient, effective and competent delivery of public goods and services.”

“Openness in the spending by your Ministry will also strengthen the country’s democracy and promote efficiency and integrity in government,” the statement signed by the Deputy Director of SERAP, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, stated.

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It noted that, “An effective and efficient ministry ought to keep careful track of how it spends public money and put in place a system to eliminate corruption, mismanagement, unnecessary, inefficient, or unreasonable expenditures.”

It further reminded the President that “The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], the UN Convention against Corruption and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption require the government to ensure that Nigeria’s resources are used effectively and efficiently, and in a manner consistent with the public interest.”

“We would therefore be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to probe the spending of N116 million on biros, letterhead and toners in 2015, and disclose the total amount spent on the same items between 2016 and 2020 within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter,” it said.

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In the same manner, SERAP has warned that “If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the registered trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your ministry to implement these recommendations in the interest of transparency and accountability.”

By Peace Obi

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