A group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has demanded that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), enforces the verdict of a Federal High Court, Lagos, on making public, details on how recovered looted funds were spent since the return of civilian rule.
A judgment by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Lagos High Court had ordered the administration of Buhari and his predecessors to give a detailed account on how recovered stolen funds had been spent since 1999.
SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, in a statement, said it sent a certified true copy yesterday to Malami.
He revealed that a 69-page judgment by Justice Idris reads, “Transparency in the decision-making process and access to information upon which decisions have been made can enhance accountability.
“Obedience to the rule of law by citizens but more particularly those who publicly took the oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law.
“In a constitutional democracy as ours, this is meant to be the norm.
“I believe that on receipt of SERAP’s request, the government had the duty to respond to same. If it does hold the information it must supply it within seven days from receipt of the request.
“Where a decision to withhold information is taken, the government/relevant authorities must inform the plaintiff of its reason.
“In respect of SERAP’s reliefs on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999, the government had kept mute. Let me say that they have no such power under the law.
“There is public interest in public authorities and high-profile individuals being accountable for the quality of their decision-making.
“Ensuring that decisions have been made on the basis of quality legal advice is part of accountability.
“The judiciary has no choice but to enforce compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.
“There is no doubt that the FOI Act is intended to act as a catalyst for change in the way public authorities approach and manage public resources and records.
“The judiciary cannot shirk its sacred responsibility to the nation to maintain the rule of law.
“I believe and do hold that the action should and does succeed in whole. Documents relating to the receipt or expenditure on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999 constitute part of the information, which a public institution and authority is obligated to publish, disseminate and make available to the public.
“The government has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested, and therefore, this court ought to compel the government to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, as the government is not above the law.”
The group asked Malami to, “use your good offices and leadership to ensure and facilitate full, effective and timely enforcement and implementation of the judgment by Justice Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos.”
SERAP contended that, “given the relative newness of the Buhari government, the effective enforcement and implementation of the judgment will invariably involve setting up a mechanism by the government to invite the leadership and high-ranking officials of the governments of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to explain, clarify and provide evidence on the amounts of stolen funds recovered by their governments, and the projects on which the funds were spent.
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