SERAP Urges W’Bank to Publish Documents on $500m Electricity Projects in Nigeria

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the World Bank to release information concerning its $500million fund for electricity projects in Nigeria.

The World Bank board of directors had last week approved $500million to help boost access to electricity in Nigeria and improve the performance of the electricity distribution companies (Disco) in the country.

SERAP, in the request, addressed to the World Bank President, Mr. David Malpass, said it would appreciate it if the bank could release archival records to identify and name any executed projects, Nigerian officials, ministries, departments and agencies (MDA) involved in the execution of such projects.

In the request dated February 6, 2021, which was signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation urged the bank to also explain the rationale for the approval of $500million, despite reports of widespread and systemic corruption in the sector, and the failure of the authorities to enforce a court judgment ordering the release of details of payments to allegedly corrupt electricity contractors, who failed to execute any projects.

SERAP said: “This application is brought pursuant to the World Bank’s ‘Access to Information Policy’, which is aimed at maximising access to information and promote the public good. There is public interest in Nigerians knowing about the bank’s supervisory role, and specifically its involvement in the implementation of electricity projects, which it has so far funded.

“The $500million is part of the over $1 billion available to Nigeria under the project titled: Nigeria Distribution Sector Recovery Programme. We would be grateful for details of any transparency and accountability mechanisms under the agreement for the release of funds, including whether there is any provision that would allow Nigerians and civil society to monitor the spending of the money by the government, its agencies, and electricity distribution companies.

“Should the bank fail and/or refuse to release the information and documents as requested, SERAP would file an appeal to the Secretariat of the Bank’s Access to Information Committee to challenge any such decision, and if it becomes necessary, to the Access to Information Appeals Board. SERAP may also consider other legal options outside the Bank’s Access to Information framework.

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the funds approved by the bank are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. The World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that the Nigerian authorities and their agencies are transparent and accountable to Nigerians on how they spend the approved funds for electricity projects in the country, and to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

The group added that: “Millions of Nigerians still lack access to free pre-paid meters. Authorities continue to use patently illegal and inordinate estimated billing across the country, increasing consumer costs, and marginalising Nigerians living in extreme poverty, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. So the bank should disclose implementation status and results and completion reports on the electricity projects that the bank has so far funded in Nigeria.”