Court Orders Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari Govts To account For $5bn Abacha Loot - Breaking News in Nigeria today 247 | TheWatchNGR

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Sunday, July 9, 2023

Court Orders Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari Govts To account For $5bn Abacha Loot

  



The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, in a landmark judgement, has ordered the disclosure of the spending details of about USD$5 billion of Abacha loot by the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and Muhammadu Buhari.”

The court ordered the government of President Bola Tinubu to “disclose the exact amount of money stolen by General Sani Abacha from Nigeria, the total amount of Abacha loot recovered, and all agreements signed on the same by the governments of former presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, and Buhari.”


The judgment was delivered last week by Justice James Kolawole Omotosho following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/407/2020, brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).


In his judgement, Justice Omotosho held that:


“In the final analysis, the application by SERAP is meritorious, and the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Finance, is hereby ordered to furnish SERAP with the full spending details of about $5 billion in Abacha loot within 7 days of this judgement.”


 Justice Omotosho ordered the government to; 


“Disclose details of the projects executed with the Abacha loot, the locations of any such projects, and the names of companies and contractors that carried out or carried out the projects since the return of democracy in 1999 until date.”


 Justice Omotosho also stated that :


“The excuse by the Minister of Finance is that the Ministry has searched its records and the details of the exact public funds stolen by Abacha and how the funds have been spent are not held by the Ministry. The excuse has no leg to stand on in view of Section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act.”


 The Ministry cannot use a blanket statement that it was not in possession of the said records of about $5 billion in Abacha loot sought by SERAP. The government failed to provide details of the projects executed with the money. It also failed to provide the locations of the projects and the names of the companies and contractors that carried out or are carrying out the projects funded with the money.”


“I hold that by the clear wordings of section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, access to information about spending details of $5bn Abacha loot was denied SERAP by the Federal Government.”


 “The Federal Government had filed a 14 paragraph Counter Affidavit deposed to by Abah Sunday, Litigation Officer in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation argued that SERAP’s suit is frivolous, as it has not shown that the government denied it the information it seeks.”


“The Federal Government has also stated that SERAP has not established sufficient interest in its application. The government urged the Court to dismiss the suit.


“For the sake of emphasis, possession of locus standi has been the bane of the citizens’ advocates, in the public interest litigation, to query transparency and accountability in governance in Nigeria.”


“In a democratic dispensation, such as in Nigeria, the citizens have been proclaimed the owners of sovereignty and mandates that place leaders in the saddle.” 


 ‘‘The requirement is a serious fracture of the citizens’ inalienable right to ventilate their grievances against poor governance vis-à-vis expenditure of public funds generated from their taxes.”


“The sacrosanct provision of Section 1(2) of the Freedom of Information Act, which has ostracised this disturbing requirement, has, admirably, remedied the harmful mischief appurtenant to it.”


“Clearly, section 1 gives a person the right to access any information from any public institution in Nigeria. SERAP is an organization registered in Nigeria and thus a juristic person. As a juristic person, SERAP need not show any specific interest in the spending details of about $5bn Abacha loot to be entitled to the same.”



‘‘I therefore hold that SERAP is entitled to the information on the spending details of about $5bn Abacha loot, and need not show any special interest in the information sought.”


“The provision of Section 4 of the Freedom of Information Act is quite clear and mandates that public institution or public officer such as the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice must make available the information requested within 7 days of the request.”


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