SERAP to Buhari: Work to end impacts of economic recession on Nigerians

By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to ake concrete measures to address and mitigate the negative effects of the economic recession on the poorest and most marginalised across the country.

In a letter dated 2 September 2016, signed by the organisation’s senior staff counsel, Mr. Timothy Adewal, SERAP expressed concern that “the economic crisis is having disproportionate impacts on the rights of the poorest and most marginalized, whom it stated are the most vulnerable because they already suffer from years of corruption, underdevelopment and abuse of power.”

As a priority, SERAP asked President Buhari to “Urgently provide the socially and economically vulnerable with social protection programs and safety-nets to protect them from severe poverty and deprivation”, and “immediately drop the proposed 10 per cent tax on phone calls, text messages, data and more, as this would disproportionately affect the socially and economically vulnerable and push them deeper into poverty and deprivation.”

It also asked the President to “Urgently propose legislation and constitutional amendment that would end the practice of budgeting billions of Naira as ‘security votes’ for the Federal Government and the 36 state governments, as the diversion of the funds has continued to undermine the ability of the government to provide essential goods and services across the country.”

The letter reads in part: “Increased poverty and the hunger that it brings will threaten the right to life and health of many socially and economically vulnerable, including women and children. These groups of people are bearing the brunt and feeling the impacts of the economic crisis on their standards of living, their jobs and their homes.”

“Your government has a binding obligation to ensure that all its policies to address the economic crisis are consistent with standards of human rights law. At the same time, the role of your government is to act as the guarantor of human rights of millions of impoverished Nigerians, including economic and social rights. Economic recession cannot be used as excuse for failing to fulfil these rights.”

“We urge President Buhari to immediately provide economic stimulus packages that are focused on limiting the worst human consequences of the crisis, and give priority attention to the most vulnerable and marginalized in the distribution of resources.”

“Buhari should put pressure on the National Assembly to cut its budget and spending, which in 2016 alone is N115 billion. The sum of N150 billion each was allocated to the National Assembly in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 while N115 billion was allocated in 2015. These huge budget allocations cannot be justified and must stop.”

“Buhari should immediately cut the sum of N103.47m budgeted for foodstuff and catering materials in the Presidential Villa, and put pressure on the 36 state governments (including the Ondo State government which budgeted N103.2m for feeding and entertainment of the state governor in 2016 and the Cross River state government which budgeted the sum of N1.4bn for entertainment and hospitality for the governor), to cut these outrageous budget allocations and use the funds for social services and to pay workers’ salaries.”

 

“The economic recession is devastating lives and livelihoods across the country, and quickly translating into rising unemployment among Nigerian youths, hunger and powerlessness. Exacerbated by the failure of many state governments to pay workers’ salaries timely, this situation has pushed millions of Nigerians deeper into poverty. Yet, there are no social protection and human rights-based responses to the economic crisis.”

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