Fuel subsidy spending: Court grants permission to interrogate government

The Federal High Court sitting in Ikeja has granted permission to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to interrogate and compel the federal government to disclose the details and basis of spending on fuel subsidy in 2011.

This was disclosed in a statement released on Sunday by the organization’s executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.

The order granted by Justice S Adah on Thursday 1 December 2011, followed the hearing of argument from SERAP’s Staff Attorney Ahmaad Idrees on the application for leave for an order of mandamus against the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Muhammed Adoke, and the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Alison-Madueke.

The court also ordered that the motion on notice be served on the Defendants, and adjourned the case to 13 December 2011 for hearing of argument on why the government should not be compelled to disclose details and basis of its spending on fuel subsidy for 2011.

A petrol station.

The suit followed a Freedom of Information request dated 19 October 2011 and made by Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana.

The motion exparte with suit number FHC/CS/L/221/2011 was brought pursuant to section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act, and Order 34 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009, and signed by Adetokunbo Mumuni for Falana and Falana Chambers.

The organization is asking the court for the following orders:

A. A DECLARATION that the abdication of statutory responsibility by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency allowing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to operate without any control is unlawful

B. A DECLARATION that the spending of over N900 billion on fuel ‘subsidy’ by the end of August 2011 without extra-budgetary allocation while only N250 billion was budgeted for the whole of 2011 amounts to a breach of the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability and cannot be justified under any circumstances whatsoever

C. A DECLARATION that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the 1st Defendants/Respondents are under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up-to-date information on

government/public spending relating to fuel ‘subsidy’ in 2011, including:

D. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS directing and or compelling the Defendants/Respondents obligation to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up-to-date information on government/public spending relating to fuel ‘subsidy’ in 2011, including: (a) The basis and expectations on which the calculation of N250 billion as fuel ‘subsidy’ was made (b) Detailed information and justifications for the increase in the budget allocation for fuel ‘subsidy’ from N250 billion for 2011 to over N900 billion by August 2011 without supplementary appropriation authorising the expenditure (c) Detailed information about the full list of importers of petroleum products in Nigeria

The organization argued that under the FOI, it has the right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.

According to the organization, “The 1st Defendant/Respondent is a public institution, and as such has a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for.

The information requested for relates to the details and basis of spending on fuel ‘subsidy’ in 2011; and this information does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from

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disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. Up till the time of filing this action, the Defendants/Respondents have failed, neglected and refused to make available the information requested by the Applicant. The Defendants/Respondents have no reason whatsoever to deny the Plaintiff/Applicant access to the information sought for.”

 

 

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