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Greenfield students: Buhari should look into a’missing $30 million safe school fund,’ according to SERAP

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate allegations that $30 million in safe school funds has gone missing, mismanaged, or been diverted, and to bring to justice anyone suspected of being involved, as well as recover the funds.”

“Direct Mr Malami and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate why the Safe Schools Initiative, formed to bolster school security in response to the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, has failed to stop recurrent abductions of students, and to ensure the safety and security of Nigerian children in schools across the country,” according to SERAP.

SERAP also urged him to “ask the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr Gordon Brown, to wait for the results of any investigation into the spending of the $30 million initially budgeted for the Safe School Initiative programme before leading the international community and donors to call for more funds for the programme,” and to “ask the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr Gordon Brown, to wait for the outcome of any investigation into the spending of the $30 million initially budgeted for the Safe School Initiative programme before

The killing of three abducted Greenfield University students, as well as the Federal Government’s initiative to collect additional funds for safe schools, prompted SERAP’s message.

“Rather than pushing to raise more funds for the Safe School Initiative programme, your government should prioritise and ensure a thorough, transparent, and effective investigation into the spending of the $30 million initially budgeted for the protection of schools, prevention of attacks, and other related activities,” SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare wrote in the letter dated April 24, 2021.

“SERAP would also recommend asking Mr Brown to use his leverage to insist on transparency and accountability in the spending of the $30 million safe school fund before rushing to engage donors to contribute to additional support for the Safe School Initiative programme,” the letter reads in part.

“SERAP also urges you to ask Mr. Brown to bring pressure on the 36 state governors to allow voluntary scrutiny by Nigerians and civil society on the expenditure of any funds spearheaded and raised by him to boost school safety and protection in Nigeria.”

“Despite the $30 million safe school fund, which was supposed to ensure safety and protection in 500 schools and provide a fear-free learning atmosphere, no school has been secured, as evidenced by the recent spate of student abductions and killings in various parts of the country.”

“Allegations of corruption in the $30 million safe school fund jeopardise the protection and security of Nigerian children in schools, and deny vulnerable children access to quality education in a safe environment because money that the government should be spending on providing safe schools for Nigerian children is squandered or stolen.”

“The Nigerian government has a legal duty to protect Nigerian children from all forms of violence and other human rights violations, such as abductions and killings, as well as to avoid and fight corruption in the expenditure of funds budgeted to enhance school safety and security.”

“Attacks on pupils, teachers, and their families are illegal under both domestic and international human rights law, and many families are forced to keep their children at home. This exacerbates already-existing inequalities in educational access, further marginalising the poor.”

“The government’s apparent inability to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the $30 million safe school fund is in violation of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], as well as Nigeria’s international commitments and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. SERAP will take all necessary legal steps to force your government to comply with our request in the public interest if we have not heard from you by then.”

“According to our knowledge, the Federal Government, state governors, and security agencies, in collaboration with foreign governments and UN agencies, launched a plan to fund safe schools in Nigeria last week in Abuja.”

“At the conference, Mr. Gordon Brown reportedly vowed to mobilise global support for the programme, saying that ‘donors are all ready and eager to participate in the new effort to finance and re-energise the initiative.’”

“On the 7th anniversary of the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, which led to the introduction of the Safe School Initiative programme, a campaign to raise more funds for safe schools was launched just a week later.”

“The Federal Government has a duty to ensure that federal authorities and state governments invest the safe school fund in a fair and accountable manner to Nigerians, and to tread carefully in raising additional funds before probing the $30 million fund’s spending.”

“According to our knowledge, despite funds dedicated to its reconstruction, the Government Secondary School in Chibok remains in ruins. ‘It was a substandard structure, every wind that blew demolished a part of the house,’ said Allan Manasseh, a spokesman for the Chibok group. It kept dropping off and off, and it has never been seen since.’”

“The enjoyment of the right to education is jeopardised by corruption. It erodes public confidence in government and makes it more difficult for states to meet their human rights obligations. It also stifles both access to and the standard of education, with the most disadvantaged and marginalised people bearing the brunt of the consequences.”

“Education is a fundamental right guaranteed by a number of international treaties ratified by Nigeria, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Training empowers children and allows them to exercise more of their human rights.”

Mr Malami, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, and Mr Brown are all copied on the letter.

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