Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to disclose within seven days the spending details of about $5 billion Abacha loot recovered by the governments of former presidents Muhammadu Buhari, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Olusegun Obasanjo.
The Court ruling is sequel to the Freedom Of Information suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/407/2020 brought before the Federal High Court by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP.
The Court in its ruling dismissed the objections made by the Federal Government.
The Court held that SERAP is entitled to the information on the spending details of about $5 billion Abacha money, and need not show any special interest in the information sought. Minister of Finance and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice were joined as defendants in the suit.
Justice James Kolawole Omotosho while ruling on the suit during the preceding week, ordered the federal government through the Ministry of Finance and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to provide and disclose to SERAP: Exact amount of money stolen by General Sani Abacha from Nigeria, and the total amount of Abacha loot recovered and all agreements signed on same since the return of democracy in 1999 till date.
The court also ordered the Federal Government to disclose details of the projects executed with the recovered funds, locations of any such projects, and the names of companies and contractors that carried or are carrying out the projects.
“Details of specific roles played by the World Bank and other partners in the execution of any projects funded with Abacha loot since 1999.
“Refer any allegations of corruption involving the execution of projects with Abacha money to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission for investigation.
“Ensure that anyone involved in alleged corruption in projects executed with Abacha money is brought to justice if there is relevant and sufficient admissible”, the Court ruling reads in quote.
Justice James Kolawole Omotosho while delivering the judgement on Monday July 3, stated that “The application by SERAP is meritorious and the Federal Government through the Ministry of Finance is hereby ordered to furnish SERAP with the full spending details of about $5 billion Abacha loot within 7 days of this judgment.”
“The excuse by the Minister of Finance is that the Ministry has searched its records and the details of the exact public funds recovered from Abacha and how the funds have been spent are not held by the Ministry. The excuse has no leg to stand in view of section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act.
“The failure of the Minister of Finance to write to SERAP informing it of where the said information exists or to transfer the request to public office who has custody of such information is fatal to their case under section 5 of the Freedom of Information Act.
“The Ministry cannot use a blanket statement that it was not in possession of the said records of about $5 billion Abacha money sought by SERAP. The government failed to provide details of the projects executed with the money. It also failed to provide locations of the projects and the names of the companies and contractors that carried out or are carrying out the projects funded with the money.
“I hold that by the clear wordings of section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, access to information about spending details of $5 billion Abacha loot was denied SERAP by the Federal Government.”