SOCIO-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has confirmed plan to sue the Nigerian government over lack of public access to details of spending of $5bn Abscha loot since 1999 and poor compliance of the Freedom of Information (FOI).
SERAP’s decision to sue the federal government is premised on a response to the FOI request that, the government has no record of the total amount stolen by Abacha and of the spending of $5billion recovered loot between 1999 and 2015.
According to SERAP, the federal government said it only recovered $630 million since 2018 and plans to spend $308 million on road repairs.
The road project listed are Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Abuja-Kano expressway and second Niger bridge
SERAP said it sent the FOI to the Attorney General, Justice Abubakar Malami and Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
But only Malami responded to the FOI saying, “We have searched our records and the information on the exact amount of public funds stolen by Abacha and how recovered loot was spent from 1999–2015 is not held by the Ministry.”
Mr Malami however said: “A total of $322 million was recovered from Switzerland in January 2018 and the funds were used for Social Investment Project.
“Also, $308 million was recovered from the Island of Jersey in collaboration with the USA. While awaiting the transfer of the money to Nigeria, it has been designated for the following projects: Lagos—Ibadan Expressway; Abuja—Kano Expressway, and Second Niger Bridge.” Malami added.
SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The failure to provide information on the exact amount stolen by Abacha and on the spending of recovered loot for the period between 1999 and 2015 implicitly amounts to a refusal by the government.
“The government also failed to provide sufficient details on the spending and planned spending of the $630 million it said it recovered since 2018,” Kolawole added.
SERAP also said: “In the circumstances and given that Mrs Zainab Ahmed has failed and/or refused to respond to our FoI request, we are finalising the papers for legal actions under the FoI Act to compel the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to fully and effectively comply with our requests.”
In the FOI request, SERAP demanded that“The Federal Government should disclose details of projects executed with the Abacha loot and their locations, details of companies and contractors involved in the execution of any such projects, details of all the agreements on the loot, the roles played by the World Bank and other actors, as well as the implementation status of all projects since 1999.”
The organisation insists that “publishing the details of projects on which Abacha loot has been spent would allow the public to know the specific projects carried and the areas of the country in which the projects have been implemented as well as the officials that may be responsible for any alleged diversion or mismanagement of the loot.”