The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), at the weekend, sued President Muhammadu Buhari over “failure to disclose information and documents relating to the names of people from whom N800 billion in looted public funds have been recovered.”
The suit also demanded specific dates of recoveries, as well as the projects the funds were expended on.
Buhari, had in paragraph 78 of his speech to mark Democracy Day on June 12, 2020, stated: “The government has recovered looted funds in excess of N800 billion. These monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.”
In the case, labelled FHC/ABJ/CS/1064/2020 and filed 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 President Buhari to publish a comprehensive list of names of people from whom N800 billion in looted funds have been recovered, the details of spending of the money, and the specific dates of the recovery.
“An order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to instruct appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly, thoroughly and transparently investigate alleged payment of N51 billion of public funds into individual private accounts in 2019.”
Other respondents are Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed.
In the lawsuit, the rights group argued: “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 move followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request of June 13, 2020 to the Nigerian leader, stating: “The public has a right to know how recovered N800 billion loot has been spent, and the details and purpose of the alleged payments of N51 billion into private accounts. Transparency is critical to ensuring public confidence in the integrity of management of public resources and wealth.”
The case was filed by Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi on hehalf of the organisation.
SERAP noted: “Granting the reliefs sought will ensure transparency and accountability, as the information sought to be published will reveal the truth of where money is going and why it is there, and allow Nigerians an opportunity to assess the impacts of any projects carried out with the recovered loot and the alleged payments into individual accounts.”
No date has, however, been fixed for hearing.