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COVID-19: Disburse $114.28m Credit For Nigeria Carefully, SERAP Tells World Bank

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a civil society organisation, has urged the World Bank to encourage the Federal Government and state governments to publicly commit to transparency and accountability in the spending of the $114.28m credit and COVID-19 grant for Nigeria.

SERAP in a statement on Sunday announced that it made the request in an open letter dated 8 August and addressed to David Malpass, President of the World Bank. The letter was also copied to Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria.

The World Bank Board of Directors last Friday approved a $114.28 financing “to help Nigeria prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 with a specific focus on state-level responses”.

According to the bank, the $100 million credit with Project ID number: P173980, is due to be paid back over 30 years, with an additional five years grace period.

The organisation said the World Bank must apply pressure on the Federal Government and the 36 state governors to accept voluntary scrutiny by Nigerians and civil society regarding the spending of the funds.

The statement read: “The World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that federal authorities and state governments are transparent and accountable to Nigerians in how they spend the approved credit and grant. The Bank should tread carefully in the disbursement of funds or distribution of resources to states if it is to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.

“SERAP expressed ‘serious concerns that the money and resources may be stolen, diverted or mismanaged by state governors without effective transparency and accountability mechanisms, especially given increasing reports of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of COVID-19 funds by agencies of the Federal Government and state governments, and impunity of perpetrators’.

“SERAP said: ‘Insisting on transparency and accountability would ensure repayment of the credit, and protect the project objectives and intended purposes for which the funds and resources are approved, disbursed and distributed.’”

The CSO stated that the World Bank has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that governments spending such funds meet international standards of transparency and accountability, including those entrenched in the UN Convention against Corruption.

It added: “Implementing these recommendations would prevent a repeat of alleged diversion and mismanagement of recovered Abacha loot disbursed by the Federal Government to state governments.

“The World Bank should make clear to all the governors that it will cancel the credit and grant should they renege on their transparency and accountability commitments to spend the money and use the resources exclusively for COVID-19 related projects, and not to steal, divert or mismanage them.

“As the level of Federal Government monitoring of the spending of the credit and grant and use of the resources by state governors may be based on political considerations, the Bank’s influence might be the only restraining force state governors will take seriously.

“SERAP encourages you and the World Bank in any future engagements with state governments in Nigeria to insist on accessing information on how governors are spending security votes, and the amounts of public funds states are allocating to pay former governors life pensions, among others, as well as consider the level of corruption within each state before approving any credits and grants.

“SERAP also encourages you and the World Bank not to sacrifice international standards of transparency and accountability in the rush to provide COVID-19 credit and grant to the 36 state governments.”

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