Follow The Money saved govt N50bn in 2019, says Hamzat Lawal

Hamzat Lawal, the founder of Follow The Money International, says his social accountability movement saved the Nigerian government N50 billion, which could have been wasted in 2019.

Speaking via TheCable Live interview with Oge Ekeanyanwu on Sunday, Lawal said his organisation helped the government close some leakages where the monies could have been lost.

“Follow The Money is shaping public policy, we are shaping debate around politics; in 2019 for instance, we saved government N50 billion in Nigeria, just from following the money and closing the leakages,” he said.

Explaining how his organisation has been tracking COVID-19 funds, Lawal said the biggest nightmare in following COVID-19 funds is access to government data and fake news.


“Our biggest nightmare is getting government data around donations, disbursement and utilisation, because that is how you will be able to do a social audit. If you don’t get these data, you’d just be running in the blind.

“Government is not willing to give information; it is even surprising that states at the sub-national level are responding to FOI, they are giving breakdown data, they are even coming on Follow The Money radio to give clarification.”

He said Follow The Money currently has 6,000 volunteers spread across 774 local governments in Nigeria and has expanded the project to seven African countries and Pakistan.



Reps committed two-month of their salary to the COVID-19 battle

Speaking of following COVID-19 funds, Lawal said there is still a lot of secrecy around the funds, highlighting the opacity around the earnings of public officials.

“After that announcement, a few of the lawmakers came forward to say they have just received their salaries and they were not expecting to receive their salary. The clerk of the national assembly at that time said there were some technicalities.

“Our own worry is if the national assembly members are saying they donated two months of their salary, how much is your salary. We are talking about a campaign around OpenNass and you say you are donating two months of your salary. Commendable. But how much is your salary?

“How much cumulatively is two months of all the over 300 members of the house of representatives? We also wrote an FOI request to the clerk of the house on how much cumulatively is the salary.


“If we get the figure, we can then calculate on our own and calculate how much their take-home pay is. It is just sad that the speaker Gbajabiamila who came with the mantra of transparency and accountability is shying from opening NASS.”

He said similar FOI has been written to the Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), who doubles as the chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) for COVID-19, with no positive response.

The president, vice-president, and cabinet members have committed half of their salary to the COVID-19 battle, without stating how much they are earning.


Hamzat Lawal is also the founder of Connected Development

Speaking on the evolution of  Follow The Money and a bigger role in the public sector, Hamzat told TheCable that he would like to become the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to fight corruption in Nigeria.


“There is this broader conversation around activism and politics, I am very conscious that there is a thin line between activism and politics because as an activist, I am advocating and who are my target audience?

“As much as I am mobilising citizens for action, we are also advocating to politicians who we have elected into office. There is this thinking; are activists going to transit into running for elected offices.


Asked again if he would run for office in the near future, he said: “Hamzat is committed to his activism, I’m sure recently you saw my statement where my named was robed into a new political movement and I had to issue a disclaimer.

“I’m happy being an activist, I’m building the next generation of accountability and transparency advocates, and like I have always said; just give me the chairman of EFCC for two years and just give me the autonomy and the power and the resources I need. Just two years.”


Lawal called on the government to use technology in opening up government spending and fighting corruption.

You can watch the full interview here.

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