By Myke Uzendu
Followingthe alleged embezzlement of $30m safe school fund, Socio-Economic Rights andAccountability Project (SERAP) has charged President Muhammadu Buhari to directthe Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr AbubakarMalami, SAN, and other appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe themissing $30m safe school fund and all those involved to justice.
Theorganization in the letter dated 24 April 2021 and signed by it’s deputydirector Kolawole Oluwadare which was seen by The AUTHORITY, SERAP wondered whythe Safe Schools Initiative, established to fortify security around schools inthe aftermath of the Chibok schoolgirls abduction has failed to stop furtherabductions of students.
Theorganization also urged the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education,Mr Gordon Brown to tarry a while for the outcome of any investigation into thespending of the $30m initially budgeted for the Safe School Initiativeprogramme before leading the international community and donors to push formore funds for the programme.
SERAP’sletter was as a consequent of the recent abduction and killing of threeabducted Greenfield University students, Kaduna and the plan by the FederalGovernment last week to raise additional funds for safe school programme.
It argued that ratherthan pushing to raise more funds for the Safe School Initiative programme,government should prioritize and ensure a thorough, transparent and effectiveinvestigation into the spending of the $30m initially budgeted for theprotection of schools, prevention of attacks, and continued education ofstudents.
SERAPin the letter was also considering asking Brown to use his influence to insiston transparency and accountability in the spending of the $30m safe school fundbefore committing to additional funding of the Safe School Initiativeprogramme.
Theorganisation further urged him to put pressure on the 36 state governors toaccept open scrutiny of the fund by Nigerians and civil society.
Partof the letter reads, “Despite the $30m safe school fund meant to ensure safetyand 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 abductionsand killings of students in several parts of the country.
“Allegationsof corruption in the spending of the $30m safe school fund undermine the safetyand security of Nigerian children in schools, and deny access of poor childrento quality education in a safe environment because the money that thegovernment should be spending to provide safe schools for Nigerian children issquandered or stolen.
“TheNigerian government has a legal obligation to protect Nigerian children fromall forms of violence and other human rights abuses including abductions,killings, and to prevent and combat corruption in the spending of fundsbudgeted to improve safety and security in schools.
“Attackson students, teachers and their families violate constitutional andinternational human rights law, and force many families to keep their childrenhome. This aggravates existing disparities in access to education, furthermarginalizing the poor.
“Thegovernment’s apparent failure to ensure transparency and accountability in thespending of the $30m safe school fund is contrary to the Nigerian Constitution1999 [as amended], and violates Nigeria’s obligations under international lawand the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“Wewould be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of thereceipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you bythen, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your governmentto comply with our request in the public interest.
“Accordingto our information, the Federal Government, state governors and securityagencies together with foreign governments and UN agencies last week launched aplan in Abuja to finance safe schools in Nigeria.”
“MrGordon Brown who attended the meeting reportedly promised to rally globalsupport for the programme, and stated that ‘donors are all ready and willing tohelp in the latest move to fund and re-energize the initiative’.
“Theplan to raise more funds for safe schools was launched barely a week after the7th anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls, which led to the launchof the Safe School Initiative programme.”
“TheFederal Government has a responsibility to ensure that federal authorities andstate governments are transparent and accountable to Nigerians in how theyspend safe school fund, and to tread carefully in raising additional fundsbefore probing the spending of the $30m fund.”
“Accordingto our information, the Government Secondary School in Chibok is still in ruinsdespite funds that were committed to its renovation. Allan Manasseh, spokesmanfor the Chibok community reportedly stated: ‘It was a substandard structure,every wind that blew destroyed a part of the building. It kept falling offagain and again and till today it has not been used’.
“Corruptionposes a critical threat to the enjoyment of the right to education. It weakensinstitutions, erodes public trust in government and impairs the ability ofstates to fulfil their human rights obligations. It also undercuts both accessto and the quality of education, and hits hardest at the most vulnerable andmarginalised sectors of society.
“Educationis a basic right enshrined in various international treaties ratified by Nigeria,including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenanton Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the African Charter on Human andPeoples’ Rights. Education is empowering, and enables children to realize allof their human rights.”
Theletter was copied to Mr Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, ChairmanIndependent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); MrAbdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC);Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, and MrBrown.