SERAP Asks Bukhari to Ditch the Plan to Borrow Inactive Account Balances
SERAP asks Bukhari to abandon plan to borrow dormant account balances, unclaimed dividends
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sent an open letter to President Muhammad Bukhari urging him to use his leadership “to immediately abandon the federal government’s plan to borrow approximately $ 895 billion in unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts using the clearly unconstitutional and illegal Finance Act of 2020 and to ensure full respect for the property rights of Nigerians. “
The financial law, signed by Bukhari last December, will allow the government to borrow unclaimed dividends and inactive balances held by Nigerians at any bank in the country.
But SERAP, in a letter dated January 9, 2021, signed by its Deputy Director Kolavole Oluvadare, stated: “The right to property is a sacred and fundamental right. Borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts amounts to illegal expropriation and will harm poor and vulnerable Nigerians, who continue to suffer from reduced public services and ultimately lead to unacceptable levels of public debt. ”
SERAP stated: “Ownership applies to all forms of ownership, including unclaimed dividends and inactive funds in accounts. Borrowing these dividends and funds without due process and the explicit consent of the owners is arbitrary and as such is legally and morally unjustified. “
According to SERAP: “The loan is neither proportionate nor necessary, especially given the government’s unwillingness or inability to stop systemic corruption in ministries, departments and agencies. [MDAs], reduce waste and stop all the loss of government spending. In addition, the loan is clearly not intended to pursue a public or public interest. “
The letter reads in part: “The security of property, along with personal security from government efforts, is the essence of freedom. This is the next level of protection for personal freedom and freedom from undue interference or harassment. Our constitutional jurisprudence is largely based on its holiness. “
“Rather than insisting on borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds from dormant accounts, your government needs to act quickly to cut management costs, ensure that salaries and large bonuses are reviewed for all senior political officials, and systemic corruption at the MDA is tackled, and increasing transparency and accountability of public spending ”.
“The loan also appears to be discriminatory because it does not include official bank accounts held by the government and may exclude the bank accounts of high-ranking government officials and politicians, thereby violating the constitutional and international prohibition of discrimination against vulnerable groups to allow everyone to exercise their right of property and related rights on equal terms. “
“SERAP is concerned that the government has also repeatedly refused and / or refused to provide transparency and accountability in spending on stolen recovered assets and loans so far, which currently amount to $ 31.98 billion, according to the Debt Management Office.” …
“SERAP is identifying growing allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the use of these loans and recovering stolen assets.”
“If we have not heard from you about the steps to be taken in this direction, SERAP Registered Trustees will take all necessary legal action to oblige your government to implement these guidelines in the public interest and promote transparency and accountability. in government spending ”.
“The government cannot legally enforce the Crisis Intervention Fund and the Unclaimed Funds Trust under the guise of a trust agreement such as Section 44 (2)[h] 1999 Nigerian Constitution [as amended] it is inapplicable and cannot serve as a basis for the creation of these funds. “
“SERAP notes that while it targets the accounts of ordinary Nigerians, the Finance Act does not apply to official bank accounts held by the federal, state or local governments or any of their ministries, departments or agencies.”
“According to our information, your government has completed plans to borrow approximately $ 895 billion in unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts using the 2020 Finance Act that you recently signed into law.”
“Under the law, the government will be able to access unclaimed dividends and unclaimed funds in dormant accounts at any bank and withdraw them without consent, based on the vague and vague Crisis Intervention Fund and the clearly illegal Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund. “
“The government’s justification for the loan is that it will improve the federal government’s access to much-needed funds and eliminate foreign exchange fees and lending penalties imposed by multilateral lenders.”
“According to finance law, the trust fund must be overseen by the Debt Management Office (DMO) and managed by a board of directors chaired by the finance minister and private sector co-chairman you appoint.
“The Nigerian Constitution, in section 44 (1), provides that“ no movable property or any interest in immovable property may be enforceable and no rights or interests in such property may be forcibly acquired in any part of Nigeria, with the exception of the methods and for the purposes provided by law. “
“Likewise, Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee the right to property and prohibit arbitrary deprivation of this right. Therefore, everyone has the right to own property alone and in association with others. “
“Respect for property rights is essential for improving other basic human rights and lifting Nigerians out of poverty. Nigeria’s constitution and international human rights law restrict the ability of any government to interfere with private property without any legal basis. ”
Copies of the letter are being sent to Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Ms. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.