Justice Emeka Nwite of a Federal High Court in Abuja, has ordered the Federal government to “account for the spending of $460 million Chinese loan to fund the failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project.”
In a ruling delivered last week, the court also ordered the government to “publish the total amount of money paid to Chinese and local companies and contractors and specific details of the names of the companies and contractors and status of the implementation of the project.” The court gave the order while delivering judgment in a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019 brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Reports have it that the suit followed the disclosure in 2019 by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, that “Nigeria was servicing the loan”, adding that she had ‘no explanations on the status of the project.’
She reportedly said: “We are servicing the loan. I have no information on the status of the CCTV project.”
In his judgment, Justice Nwite agreed with SERAP that “there is a reasonable cause of action against the government. Accounting for the spending of the $460 million Chinese loan is in the interest of the public. It will be inimical for the court to refuse SERAP’s application for judicial review of the government’s action.”
“The Minister of Finance is in charge of the finance of the country and cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be oblivious of the amount of money paid to the contractors for the Abuja CCTV contract and the money meant for the construction of the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).”
Justice Nwite also ordered the government “to provide the details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion paid for the failed contract meant to construct the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) was part of another loan obtained from China.”
“SERAP’s core objectives are to promote human rights, transparency and accountability and anti-corruption in Nigeria. I am of the humble view that there is a reasonable cause of action against the government [through the Minister of Finance] and I hold that SERAP has made out a case to be entitled to the reliefs sought. The law is well settled that where a document or letter is sent by post, it is the law that the same is taken or presumed to have been delivered.
Following this principle of law and relying on exhibit OS2, SERAP’s Freedom of Information request sent to Ms Ahmed is deemed to have been delivered. Therefore, the averment by the government [through her] that they were not served with the letter is, hereby, discountenance. I hold.”part of the judgment read