Court grants SERAP permission for judicial review of spending of Paris Club refunds

Featured June 29, 2017
 
There is prospect Nigerians keen about knowing how exactly their governors spent Paris club refunds disbursement may soon have some answers, as a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos last Friday granted Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) leave “to apply for judicial relief and to seek an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling the government to publish details of spending ofN388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds allegedly diverted and mismanaged by35 States.”
 
Justice Muslim Hassan ruled that SERAP could proceed with the legal challenge to unravel how exactly 35 states spent Paris Club loan refunds. Justice Hassan while granting leave stressed that it was important for the authorities “to come and tell us how they spent our money.”
The order granting leave by the court followed the hearing of an argument in court onexparte motion by SERAP counsel Ms Bamisope Ibidolapo.
The order by Justice Hassan has now cleared the way for SERAP to advance its case against the Federal Government and state governors. The motion on notice is set for Wednesday 14 September 2017 for the hearing of argument on why the government should not be directed and compelled to public details of projects on which the Paris Club loan refunds were spent.
It would be recalled that in the suit number FCH/CS/523/17 filed in April sought “an order to compel the Accountant General of the Federation Alh. Ahmed Idris, to compile and pass on to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubabar Malami, SAN, information relating to the release and spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds to the states.”
 
SERAP is also seeking an order “for the Attorney-General of the Federation to use the information on the spending by the 35 states to initiate legal action against the States that allegedly diverted and mismanaged the funds with a view to compelling the states to widely publish, including on a dedicated website, details of spending of the funds by them.”
 
The suit read in part: “The orders sought are necessary to know exactly what happened to the Paris Club refunds, and the release of the information including on a dedicated website would be deemed incidental to the power of the federal government to achieve effective implementation of anticorruption legislation, and will not amount to interference with activities within the states involved.”
 
“The Applicant argues that allegations of corruption and mismanagement of N388.304 billion London Paris Club loan refunds by states have undermined the human dignity of workers and pensioners facing difficult circumstances that deprive them of their capacity to fully realize their internationally recognized economic and social rights.”
The allegations of corruption in the spending of the London Paris Club loan refunds have also exacerbated poverty, social exclusion, and violated the government’s obligation to use its maximum available resources to fully realize the right of all persons especially workers and pensioners who are the most vulnerable sectors of the population.”
 
“The Federal Government has a constitutional and statutory obligation to contribute to the eradication of corrupt practices and abuse of power, ensure proper organization and maintenance of all information in its custody in a manner that facilitates public access to such information, and make readily this available to applicants whenever it is sought.
 
Since the receipt of SERAP’s letter dated 17th March, 2017, and up till the filing of this suit, the government has so far failed, refused and/ or neglected to pass on to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, information relating to the release and spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds to 35 States by the Federal Government for appropriate legal action against the states.”
 
SERAP is seeking the following reliefs:
 
A DECLARATION that the failure of the Respondent to urgently compile and pass on to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, information relating to the release and spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds to 35 States by the Federal Government, so that the Attorney-General of the Federation can take steps to initiate legal action against the States that allegedly diverted and mismanaged the funds with a view to compelling the states to widely publish, including on a dedicated website, details of spending of the funds by them is unconstitutional and unlawful as it contradicts and in conflict with the duties and obligations of the Respondent under theConstitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 and the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
 
AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS compelling the Respondent to urgently compile and pass on to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, information relating to the release and spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club Loan refunds to 35 States by the Federal Government, so that the Attorney-General of the Federation can take steps to initiate legal action against the States that allegedly diverted and mismanaged the funds with a view to compelling the states to widely publish, including on a dedicated website, details of spending of the funds by them.
 
“Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the Respondent will not immediately compile andpass on information to the Attorney General of the Federation regarding the release and spending of the London Paris Club Loan refunds to enable him take steps to pursue appropriate legal action against states that allegedly diverted and mismanaged the loan refunds.
 
It would be recalled that the Federal Government released N388.304billion of the N522.74 billion to 35 states as refunds of over-deductions on London-Paris Club loans.The amounts received by the states are as follows: Akwa Ibom N14.5bn; Bayelsa N14.5bn; Delta N14.5bn; Kaduna N14.3bn; Katsina N14,5bn; Lagos N14.5bn; Rivers N14.5bn; and Borno N13,654138,849.49.
 
Others are: Imo 13bn; Jigawa 13.2bn; Niger N13.4bn; Bauchi N12.7bn and Benue N12.7bnAnambra N11.3bn; Cross River N11.3bn8; Edo N11.3bn; Kebbi N11bn; Kogi N11.2bn; Osun N11.7bn; Sokoto N11.9bn; Abia N10.6bn; Ogun N10.6bn; Plateau N10.4bn; Yobe N10bn; and Zamfara N10bn. Other states are: Adamawa N4.8bn; Ebonyi N3.3bn; Ekiti N8.8bn; Enugu N9.9bn; Gombe N8.3bn; Kwara N5.4bn; Nasarawa N8.4bn; Ondo N6.5bn; Oyo N7.2bn and Taraba N4.2bn.