The presidency has asked the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to desist from putting out its “divisive, irresponsible, and bare-faced publicity stunts”.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu made the call on Wednesday in a statement titled, ‘SERAP should stop the publicity stunt and render own accountability.’
The piece, according to Mr Shehu, was aimed at addressing the repeated ridiculous claims from SERAP “that it is bringing legal action against the Government and/or President of Nigeria”.
Deepening his argument, the spokesman argued that “very little is known about SERAP, or who funds them – despite their claims of being an organisation that champions transparency and accountability”.
According to him, “to date, SERAP has announced on repeated occasions – each time via a well-funded media campaign – that it is suing the government or President over a range of issues from alleged human rights abuses to alleged corruption. To date, SERAP has not taken their retinue of legal actions to a logical conclusion. They don’t follow through.
“Yet these headline-grabbing publicity stunts, however baseless, succeed in painting an inaccurate picture of life and governance in Nigeria and – more seriously – in sowing division amongst the Nigerian people during a time of heightened global economic volatility and hardship”.
Mr Shehu further said that Nigeria is comfortable that its record as Africa’s leading democracy and largest economy speaks for itself.
“Nigeria is amongst the top five countries in Africa for quality of life, and our ranking in the Human Development Index has steadily risen for a decade,” he declared, adding that: “This success is testament to the rights, rule of law and strong, independent institutions enjoyed by all Nigerian citizens and others who live there. Indeed, it is a fact that independent, non-governmental organisations can thrive there – especially those that seek accountability from government.
“Put simply, here lies SERAP’s paradox: in a country without human rights, no rule of law, limited freedom of expression, and weak democratic institutions the cases and cacophony that SERAP causes – even the organization itself – simply would not be permitted.
“It is, unfortunately, the case that our progressive, modern, and liberal legal system is open to manipulation by cynical actors who seek nothing but to sow division amongst Nigerians and secure publicity for themselves. With the global pandemic exacerbating poverty across the continent, those who have always sought to divide Nigerians along cultural, racial and political lines for political or financial gain are more dangerous than before”.
The president’s special media aide challenged SERAP to follow through on its latest spurious legal claim in a Nigerian court of law.
He urged the organisation to challenge the government publicly, legally and transparently, adding that while they do so, they should reveal in full view of the nation who they are, and who is funding them.