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Buhari should obey ruling and release details on electricity payments – SERAP

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Mr Abukabar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to use his “special role as the Chief Law Officer of Nigeria to advise and persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to fully and effectively enforce the judgment by Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor ordering the immediate release of details of payments to all defaulting and allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies since 1999.”

Justice Obiozor, a Professor of Law, sitting at the Federal High Court, Lagos, had in July delivered a judgment in a Freedom of Information suit number FHC/L/CS/105/19, brought by SERAP, ordering the Federal Government to disclose and publish the names of companies and the whereabouts of the contractors paid by successive governments to carry out electricity projects but disappeared with the money without executing any projects.”

In the open letter dated 13 September 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The enforcement of this judgment will be a special moment for the government’s anti-corruption agenda and the sovereignty of rule of law, as it would go a long way in protecting the integrity of our legal system. We urge you to make best efforts to advise and persuade President Buhari and Mr Sale Mamman, Minister of Power to begin to take steps that will ensure the full enforcement of this ground-breaking judgment.”

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SERAP said: “Advising and persuading Mr Buhari and Mr Mamman to enforce the judgment against corrupt contractors and companies would show your commitment to the rule of law, and contribute to addressing the culture and legacy of corruption in the power sector. It will show that you are not just Mr Buhari’s lawyer but also a defender of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the rule of law and public interest within the government, something which Justice Obiozor’s judgment seeks to serve.”

The letter read in part: “It is emphatically the province and constitutional duty of the Attorney General to advise on the enforcement of judicial decisions. It is important to do so here if power sector contractors and companies are not to continue to evade justice for their alleged corruption.”

“Taking action as recommended would be in keeping with Nigerians’ expectations, and entirely consistent with Buhari’s oft-expressed commitment to ‘kill’ corruption–whether by public officials or private contractors—and help to build citizens’ trust and confidence in the ability of this government to take head-on the systemic corruption in the power sector.”

“Our democracy needs courts so that public officials and private actors including contractors can be held accountable for any infraction of Nigerian anti-corruption laws and international commitments. Constitutionalism and the rule of law are not in conflict with democracy; rather, they are essential to it.”

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in advising and persuading Mr Buhari and Mr Mamman to enforce and implement Justice Obiozor’s judgment. We would be happy to provide further information or to discuss any of these issues in more detail with you.”

“A certified true copy of the judgment is enclosed with this letter for your attention and urgent action.”

It would be called that SERAP had in February filed the FoI suit against the Federal Government and former Minister of Power Mr Babatunde Fashola. The former minister then responded, saying that: “the Ministry has searched for the requested information on details of alleged contractors and companies but we could not find it from our records.”

SERAP said: “During the 20 years of Nigeria’s democracy successive governments have failed to increase power generation and provide Nigerians with regular and uninterrupted electricity supply, with many electricity contracts shrouded in secrecy, and trillions of Naira going down the drain.”

“Ordinary Nigerians have continued to pay the price for corruption in the electricity sector, as the country has remained in darkness despite huge investment in the power sector by successive governments.”

In summary, Justice Obiozor in his judgment granted the following reliefs:

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  1. A DECLARATION is hereby made that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to provide SERAP with documents and information containing the specific names and details of contractors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector by successive governments since 1999, details, of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contractors and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country, and failure to widely publish it on a dedicated website, any of such information, amounts to a breach of the obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2011
  2. A DECLARATION is hereby made that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to provide SERAP with specific documents and information containing the specific names and details of contractors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects from successive governments since 1999 but failed to execute any of such projects, and failure to  widely publish it  on a dedicated website, any of such information, amounts to a breach of the Respondent’s responsibility/obligation under the Freedom of Information Act 2011
  3. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS is made directing and compelling the Respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to urgently compile and make available to SERAP documents and information containing the specific names and details of contactors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 to date, details of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contracts and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country and to publish widely including on a dedicated website, any of such information
  4. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS is made directing and compelling the Respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to urgently compile and make available to SERAP documents and information containing the specific names and details of contactors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects from successive governments since 1999 but failed to execute any projects
  5. A DECLARATION is hereby made that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to urgently disclose if there is an ongoing investigation or prosecution of allegedly corrupt contractors and companies in the electricity sector, amounts to a breach of the Respondent’s responsibility/obligation under the Freedom of Information Act 2011
  6. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS is made directing and compelling the Respondent [Federal Government/Ministry of Power] to urgently disclose if there is an ongoing investigation or prosecution of allegedly corrupt contractors and companies in the electricity sector.
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