I am often amazed at the proclivity of some idle persons for claims that are not only exaggerated but also completely baseless. These ambitious individuals are usually used by paymasters to spin all sorts of specious tales whilst hiding behind the mask of non-governmental organisation, civil society or pressure group of various nomenclatures. Their ostensible motivation is public interest, but their real goal is to get back at perceived enemies of their sponsors and, perhaps, gain some popularity for themselves in the process. One group that appears to have mastered this art is so-called Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
An examination of the group’s activities, compared to its stated objectives, shows that SERAP is little more than a terribly misguided set of noisemakers. While the group is touted as a non-profit organisation established “to promote transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors through human rights”, recent developments have shown that the organisation is nothing but a bunch of attention-seeking opportunists. In fact, one doubts if it is really an organisation and not a “one-man battalion” with the unseemly prominence of one Adetokunbo Mumuni who is believed to be the body’s Executive Director.
Anyone who has been following this SERAP’s press releases and “media noise” would easily understand what I am talking about. The latest in the series of uncouth debates generated by the group is its false alarm about the recovered Abacha loot. In a statement made available to the public on November 29, 2015, SERAP alleged mismanagement of the recovered funds and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to probe ex-minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. How do you call for the probe of someone who facilitated the recovery of the loot and ensured its judicious disbursement?
Alluding to records purportedly obtained from the World Bank, Mumuni in SERAP says it is “closely studying and scrutinising with a view to discovering whether the documents contain details that Nigerians would like to see and whether the information correspond to the facts on the ground.” In the same breath, however, he calls for the probe of the former minister of finance. Isn’t it instructive that that the ramshackle of a group has proceeded to pass judgement while acknowledging that it had not done due diligence to conclude its scrutiny and investigations?
Contrary to SERAP’s claims that the disbursement of the fund was not monitored, the World Bank indeed monitored how the money was spent, together with a group of Nigerian and Swiss NGOs. Beyond monitoring, they issued a report which is well documented at the World Bank. The gist of the entire process has been in the public domain for about a decade. Apparently, the bank has furnished SERAP with the relevant documents in this regard, and the latter is attempting to twist the information to defame Dr Okonjo-Iweala and sully her reputation.
The World Bank specifically stated in one of its reports that the monitoring and analysis of repatriated fund utilisation was undertaken both at the macro level and at the micro level. While the macro level involved analysis of general budget expenditure trends, the micro level deployed a field survey of randomly selected projects funded under the program. In its December 2006 report, a 58-page document [http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTNIGERIA/Resources/Abacha_Funds_Monitoring_1221.pdf], the World Bank clearly affirms that in spite of expected difficulties recorded in the joint monitoring exercise – being the first of its kind – the process was largely successful. It earned a seal of approval from the government and civil society, both of whom acknowledged that they have found the exercise valuable.
Now, where was SERAP when these reports were published and jointly attested to by international observers, government representatives, and reputable Civil Society Organisations? The monitoring exercise involved bodies like the Nigeria Society of Engineers, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Action Aid International, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, among others. It is laughable that an organisation which claimed to have been in existence since 2004 has only just woken up in 2015 to raise issues where none exists. How daft and desperate can people be? Well, the good news is that SERAP and its sponsors are about to be revealed for who they really are. So Nigerians will not be deceived anymore by their antics.
It will be recalled that this same Mumuni in SERAP was used to call for the revocation of Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment on the board of GAVI, owned by Bill and Melinda Gates, for spurious claims that the former minister favoured GAVI while in office. The silliness of SERAP is made glaring when one considers that the money in question was not Nigeria’s money in the first place. It was GAVI’s donation to Nigeria for the immunisation of Nigerian children, for which GAVI later discovered inappropriate use of $2.2million of the funds and therefore called for a refund of that amount. An official release of GAVI’s finding was published on its site several months ago to set the record straight on this transaction [http://www.gavi.org/Library/News/Statements/2015/Reimbursement-of-misused-amounts-identified-in-Gavi-Cash-Programme-Audit-in-Nigeria/]. Little wonder that despite the sponsored hullabaloo made by SERAP and it’s media cronies, GAVI did not even accord their noise a glancing attention.
I think it’s high time Mumuni, his hurting sponsors and SERAP shut up or go get another prey. That Okonjo-Iweala woman is too smart and too formidable a target for their puerile and uncoordinated stratagem. And the Nigerian people are a better informed audience than Mumu gives them credit for.
Issachar Odion is a Political Scientist writing from Port Harcourt.