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SERAP Drags Buhari to court over Failure to Publish Details of N800bn Recovered Loot

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over failure to disclose information and documents relating to the names of people from whom N800 billion looted public funds have been recovered, specific dates of the recovery, and details of projects on which the money has been spent.

Buhari had in his speech in commemoration of Democracy Day on June 12, 2020, stated that the government has recovered looted funds in excess of N800 billion, and that these monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1064/2020 filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel President Buhari to publish a comprehensive list of names of people from whom N800 billion looted funds have been recovered, the details of spending of the money, and the specific dates of the recovery, Thisday reported.

The group is also seeking an order of mandamus to direct and compel Buhari to instruct appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly, thoroughly and transparently investigate alleged payment of N51billion of public funds into individual private accounts in 2019.

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated June 23, 2020, to President Buhari, stating that: “The public has a right to know how recovered N800billion loot has been spent, and the details and purpose of the alleged payments of N51billion into individual private accounts.

“The transparency over transactions by the government is critical to ensuring public confidence in the integrity of management of public resources and wealth.”

Joined in the suit as respondents are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed.

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “The court ought to compel the respondents to disclose the details and whereabouts of the public funds. There is no legally justifiable reason why the information should not be made widely available to Nigerians, especially as the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) requires the government in section 15(5) to abolish all forms of corruption. That means ensuring transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and wealth.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “As a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigeria has committed to ensuring transparent management of public resources, and unhindered access to public information. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.

“Transparency and accountability in governance is in the public interest. Publishing the details regarding the N800 billion recovered loot and investigating the alleged suspicious payments into personal accounts would be entirely consistent with Nigeria’s international anti-corruption commitments.

 “Disclosing the details of projects on which the N800billion recovered loot have been spent and publishing a comprehensive list of names of people from whom they have been recovered, as well as investigating alleged payment of billions of naira into individual private accounts, would be entirely consistent with the oft-expressed anti-corruption commitments by the government.”

“The authorities are required to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in the management of these resources and wealth, and the programmes that they oversee.

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