Mismanaged public funds recovered in Nigeria thanks to SERAP

30 June 2011, by Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP.

Following information from whistleblowers and a petition submitted by the NGO SERAP, the Nigerian Commission for Independent Corrupt Practices (ICPC) investigated allocations to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), and discovered massive corruption and mismanagement of the funds, with N54.78 billion (US$351.54 million) allegedly missing. The investigation by the ICPC has already resulted in the recovery of N3.4 billion (US$21.82 million) funds, intended for the education of Nigerian children.

After the ICPC presented its report, SERAP filed a case before the ECOWAS Court in Abuja, arguing that the corruption in the UBEC amounted to a denial of the right to a free, quality and compulsory education for Nigerian children. In a landmark December 2010 judgment, the ECOWAS Court upheld SERAP’s submission and noted that there was prima facie evidence of embezzlement of funds. The Court stated that while steps should be taken to recover funds and prosecute the suspects, the Nigerian government should provide the funds necessary to cover the shortfall. The Court also asked the government to ensure that the right to free, quality and compulsory education is not undermined by corruption, and held that the UBEC has the responsibility to ensure that funds disbursed for basic education are properly used for this purpose.

SERAP has asked the ECOWAS Court to issue a writ of execution against the Federal Government and the UBEC to secure effective implementation of the Court’s judgement. The NGO has requested the Nigerian government to publicly acknowledge the judgment, and is now establishing a coalition of civil society and professional bodies to put pressure on the government to fully implement the ECOWAS Court right to education judgment.