By Uche Amunike
The Federal High Court in Abuja has mandated the Bola Tinubu-led government of Nigeria to provide the details of how the recovered Sani Abacha loot of $5bn was spent during the past administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.
The order was given last week by Justice James Omotosho, while delivering judgment on a Freedom of Information suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/407/2020 and filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Justice Omotosho also stated that the federal government must provide the court with the required details of the Abacha loot, within seven days of the judgment.
According to a statement released Sunday, by SERAP, the court ordered the government of President Bola Tinubu to ‘disclose the exact amount of money stolen by Abacha from Nigeria, and the total amount of the Abacha loot recovered and all agreements signed on same by the governments of former presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari.’
Justice Omotosho condemned the claims made by the Ministry of Finance, about not knowing the details of how the Abacha loot was spent. He ruled that the application by SERAP had merits and mandated the federal government, through the Ministry of Finance, to ‘to furnish SERAP with the full spending details of about $5bn Abacha loot within seven days of this judgment.’
He disagreed with the excuse by the Finance Ministry about not having an idea how Abacha’s loot was spent. His words: ‘The excuse by the Minister of Finance is that the Ministry has searched its records and the details of the exact public funds recovered from Abacha and how the funds have been spent are not held by the Ministry. The excuse has no leg to stand in view of section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act.’
‘According to SERAP, the court also mandated the Bola Tinubu-led government to disclose the details of all the projects that were executed with the Abacha’s loot, as well as information of where such projects were located, including the names of the companies and contractors that were responsible for carrying out the projects since the return of democracy in 1999 till the present day.’
In addition, Omotosho also added that the government should disclose details of the exact roles played by the World Bank and other partners in executing any of the projects funded with Abacha’s loot under the government of former Presidents Obasanjo. Jonathan and Buhari.’
His words: ‘Refer any allegations of corruption involving the execution of projects with Abacha money to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission for investigation.’
‘Ensure that anyone involved in alleged corruption in projects executed with Abacha money is brought to justice if there is relevant and sufficient admissible.’
Hear him: ‘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.’