SERAP gets court permission to seek documents on recovered stolen funds

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has received court approval to compel the federal government to disclose information and documents on the spending of recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999.

The order by a Federal High Court sitting in Ikeja has now cleared the way for SERAP to advance its case against the government.

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

The order granted by Justice Steven Adah on Tuesday 7 February 2012, followed the hearing

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of argument from SERAP’s Staff Attorney Ms Oyindamola Musa on the application for leave for an order of mandamus against the Accountant-General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.

Justice Adah also granted SERAP the leave to serve processes on the two respondents, and adjourned the case to 21 February 2012 for hearing of argument on why the government should not be compelled to disclose details and documents relating to the projects on which recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999 have been spent.

The respondents are expected to have filed and served their replies and served same on the applicant before the date.

The suit followed a Freedom of Information request dated 26 September 2011 and made by SERAP.

The motion exparte with suit number FHC/IKJ/CS/248/2011 alleges “failure of the government to release information and documents on the spending of recovered stolen funds.”

The plaintiff is arguing that under the FOI Act, 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 plaintiff, “the disclosure of the information requested will give the general public a true picture and a clear understanding of how the spending of recovered public stolen funds have impacted on the lives of the poor and indigent and other disadvantaged Nigerians.”

The organization is also seeking the following reliefs:

A. A DECLARATION that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents to individually and/or collectively disclose detailed information about the spending of recovered stolen public funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999, and to publish widely such information, including on a dedicated website, amounts to a breach of the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability and violates Articles 9, 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act

B. A DECLARATION that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the 1st Defendant/Respondent is under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up to date information on the spending of recovered stolen funds, including: (a) Detailed information on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets that have so far been recovered by Nigeria (b) The amount that has been spent from the recovered stolen public assets and the objects of such spending (c) Details of projects on which recovered stolen public assets were spent

C. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS directing and or compelling the Defendants/Respondents to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up to date information on recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999

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