Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has granted the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) leave to apply for judicial relief and to seek an order of mandamus directing the government to publish details of spending of N388.304billion London Paris Club loan refunds allegedly diverted and mismanaged by 35 States.â€
Justice Muslim Hassan ruled that SERAP could proceed with the legal challenge to unravel how exactly 35 states spent Paris Club loan refunds.
He, while granting leave, stressed that it was important for the authorities â€œto come and tell us how they spent our money.â€
The order granting leave by the court followed the hearing of an argument in court on exparte 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 September 14, 2017, for the hearing of argument on why the government should not be directed and compelled to publish details of projects on which the Paris Club loan refunds were spent.
The suit number FCH/CS/523/17 filed in April sought â€œan order to compel the Accountant General of the Federation Ahmed Idris, to compile and pass on to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubabar Malami, information relating to the release and spending of N388.304billion London and Paris Club Loan refunds to the states.â€
SERAP is also seeking an order â€œfor the AGF 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.â€
The suit read in part: â€œThe 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.
â€œThe applicant argues that allegations of corruption and mismanagement of N388.304 billion London and 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 realise their internationally recognised economic and social rights.
â€œThe allegations of corruption in the spending of the London and Paris Club loan refunds have also exacerbated poverty, social exclusion, and violated the governmentâ€™s obligation to use its maximum available resources to fully realise the right of all persons especially workers and pensioners who are the most vulnerable sectors of the population.â€
It added: â€œThe federal government has a constitutional and statutory obligation to contribute to the eradication of corrupt practices and abuse of power, ensure proper organisation 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.
â€œSince the receipt of SERAPâ€™s letter dated March 17, 2017, and up till the filing of this suit, the government has so far failed to pass on to the AGF , information relating to the release and spending of N388.304billion London and Paris Club Loan refunds to 35 states by the federal government for appropriate legal action against the states.â€
SERAP, among others, is therefore seeking a declaration that the failure of the respondent to urgently compile and pass on to the AGF, information relating to the release and spending of N388.304billion London and Paris Club Loan refunds to 35 States by the federal government, so that the AGF 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 the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 and the Freedom of Information Act 2011.