SERAP sues finance minister over failed multi million dollars Abuja CCTV project

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A civil society organization has filed a law suit against the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, over what it described as failure to disclose information and specific documents on the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the apparently failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project.

The group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), also said it filed the lawsuit because the Minister failed to name the contractors involved and explain why the government has continued to re-pay the loan.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel the Minister of Finance to disclose the details of local companies and Chinese contractors that have received funds from the $460 million loan for the finance of the failed Abuja CCTV project as well as details of the status of implementation of the project.”

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SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Minister of Finance to disclose whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira paid in 2010 for the failed project meant to construct the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) was part of another loan obtained from China, and to clarify further whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira mobilsation fee for the construction of the Headquarters of the CCB in Abuja was part of another loan from China.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated 25 October 2019 to Mrs Ahmed, expressing: “concern that Nigerians are being made to pay for the Chinese loans for failed and abandoned projects, and for which they have not benefited in any way, shape or form.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Opeyemi Owolabi and Atinuke Adejuyigbe, read in part: “Transparency in the spending of Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services, and the general public interests.”

The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure under the Act. The Respondent has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested.”

“Democracy cannot flourish if governments operate in secrecy. The citizens are entitled to know how the commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting.”

“By the combined provisions of Sections 1; 2; 3(4); 4; 7(1)&(5); 9; 14(2)(b); 19(2); 20 of the FoI Act, 2011, among other provisions; SERAP’s right of access to information is guaranteed and there is a statutory obligation on the Respondent, being public officer, to proactively keep, organize and maintain all information or records about her ministry’s operations, personnel, activities and other relevant or related information or records in a manner that facilitates public access to such information or record.”

“By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”

The $460 million loan got for the failed Abuja CCTV project and the N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, which may be part of another Chinese loan, may have been mismanaged or stolen, and in any case, remain unaccounted for.”

“As a key agency of government, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s loans including those obtained from China are transparently and accountably used solely for the purposes for which the loans are obtained, and for the effective development of public goods and services as well as the general public interests.”

The suit is seeking the following reliefs:

AN ORDER granting leave to the Applicant to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of mandamus directing and compelling the Respondent to provide and make available to the Applicant information on the total amount of money paid to contractors, with specific details of names of companies local contractors involved, from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China by the Federal Government of Nigeria to fund the Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract.

AN ORDER granting leave to the Applicant to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of Mandamus directing and compelling the Respondent to provide the details of the local companies and Chinese contractors that have received funds from the $460 million loan for the finance of the Abuja CCTV contract as well as details of the status of implementation of the project.

AN ORDER granting leave to the Applicant to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of Mandamus directing and compelling the Respondent to provide details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira paid in 2010 for the failed contract meant to construct the headquarters of the CCB was part of another loan obtained from China, and to clarify further whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira mobilsation fee reportedly paid to the contractors for the construction of the Headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau in Abuja was part of another loan from China.

AND FOR SUCH FURTHER ORDER(S) the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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