SERAP Asks Court to Compel Fashola to Name Defaulting Contractors

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By Ugo Aliogo

A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), to disclose names and details of contractors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects but failed to execute them starting from the return of democracy in 1999 to 2018.

In a suit number FHC/L/CS/105/19 filed at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, SERAP is seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling Mr Fashola to provide specific details on the names and whereabouts of the contractors who collected public funds meant for electricity projects but disappeared with the money without executing any projects.

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated January 4, 2019. It was filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Adelanke Aremo.

The organization giving Fashola 14 days to publish “the names of all contractors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector since the return of democracy in 1999 to date, details of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contractors and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country.”

SERAP in the suit, is seeking: “an order directing and/or compelling the respondent to compile and make available to the applicant documents containing the specific names and details of contractors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector, details of projects, amount that have been paid to the contracts and companies, level of implementation of electricity projects and locations across the country and to publish widely including on a dedicated website, any such information since the return of democracy in 1999 to date.

The organisation also want the court to order the respondent to disclose if there is any ongoing investigation or prosecution of allegedly corrupt contractors and companies in the electricity sector

It further asked the court to declare that the minister’s failure to provide the applicant with the required information amounts to a fundamental breach of the FoI Act 2011.

SERAP sought a declaration of the court that the failure of the respondent to  disclose if there is any ongoing investigation or prosecution of allegedly corrupts contractors and companies in the electricity sector amounts to a breach of the FoI  Act 2011

The organisation said the publication of such names will make it hard for contractors and companies to get away with complicity in grand corruption stressing that the citizens have the right to see that the FoI  Act is enforced where there is an infraction of the right to information or a threat of its being violated, in matters of public interests.

SERAP contended “by compelling Fashola to name the contractors and their registration details, if any, Nigerians will be better able to hold them to account for allegedly absconding with public funds meant for electricity projects, thereby throwing the country into perpetual darkness and socio-economic stagnation as well as denying people their human rights.”

It argued that granting the order as prayed would ensure that allegations of complicity in grand corruption by contractors and companies in the power sector do not go unpunished.

“Unless the names of the contractors and companies are disclosed and widely published, alleged corrupt contractors and companies executing electricity projects will not be deterred and the victims of corruption that they committed will continue to be denied justice and effective remedies,” it contended.

The organization noted that to date, no contractors or companies who allegedly collected money for electricity projects not executed or poorly executed have been investigated for corruption let alone prosecuted and fined while senior public officials who apparently served as intermediaries for these contractors and companies continue to escape justice.

“The allegations of corruption involving many contractors and companies in the power sector have continued to impair, obstruct and undermine the ability of successive governments to provide Nigerians with access to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply. Contractors and companies that allegedly disappeared with public funds meant for electricity projects may also be liable for aiding and abetting the commission of acts of grand corruption.

“Publishing the names of contractors will contribute to ending a pattern of corruption in the power sector and improve access of Nigerians to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply. It will also allow citizens to track the level of execution of electricity projects by contractors and companies and reduce impunity for corrupt acts in the sector.

“Granting the reliefs sought will ensure that punitive and dissuasive measures are taken against corrupt contractors and companies, shareholders and others that might have any ownership interests in companies responsible for failed execution of power projects in the country”, it added.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.