A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to publish up-to-date information on recovered loot since the return of civilian rule in 1999.
According to the court, the publication should include detailed information on the total amount of stolen public assets that have so far been recovered by Nigeria, the amount that has been spent from the recovered loot and details of projects on which recovered funds were spent.
Justice Mohammed Idris directed Buhari to “ensure that his government, and those of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan account fully for all recovered loot.”
In the landmark judgment delivered on Friday, the judge also held that successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 “breached the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability for failing to disclose details about the spending of recovered stolen public funds, including on a dedicated website.”
The judgment was sequel to a Freedom of Information suit brought by a group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
In delivering the judgment, Justice Idris dismissed all the objections raised by the Federal Government and upheld SERAP’s arguments. Consequently, the court entered judgment in favour of SERAP against the government as follows:
• A declaration is hereby made that the failure and/or refusal of the respondents to individually and/or collectively disclose detailed information about the spending of recovered stolen public funds since the return of civil rule in 1999, and to publish widely such information, including on a dedicated website, amounts to a breach of the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability and violates Articles 9, 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act;
• A declaration is hereby made that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the 1stdefendant/respondent is under a binding legal obligation to provide the plaintiff/applicant with up-to-date information on the spending of recovered stolen funds, including: Detailed information on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets that have so far been recovered by Nigeria; the amount that has been spent from the recovered stolen public assets and the objects of such spending; and
details of projects on which recovered stolen public assets were spent;
• An order of mandamus is made directing and or compelling the defendants/respondents to provide the plaintiff/applicant with up-to-date information on recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999.
The Federal Government had earlier through its counsel, Sheba Olugbenga, filed a notice of preliminary objection dated March 26, 2012 on the following grounds: That SERAP lacked the locus standi to institute the action, the action was statute barred; and that SERAP’s affidavit evidence offends the provisions of the Evidence Act.
On May 8, 2012, the government filed additional written address in support of its preliminary objection, dwelling most extensively on the retroactive nature of SERAP’s request that is based on the Freedom of Information Act, arguing that the law having been enacted in 2011, does not apply to spending by governments since 1999…[Read more].