The federal government has been dragged before a Federal High Court, Ikoyi by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, for failing to provide information on the spending of the N700bn borrowed between December 31, 2012 and April 30, this year.
On May 28, SERAP’s executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, had asked President Goodluck Jonathan to provide information on the spending of N700 billion borrowed between December 31, 2012 and April 30, 2013, and to introduce a moratorium on borrowing.
The rights group in a letter to the Accountant-General of the Federation, gave the government 14 days within which to supply the information or risk a legal action.
“… we fear the money could have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen. Despite this huge borrowing, the same period also witnessed decreased spending on basic social services such as roads, electricity, health, education, and thus explaining in part why the government has lagged behind in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” the group stated.
Having waited nearly two months without compliance, SERAPdecided to institute a legal case against the federal government relying on provisions of the Freedom of Information, FoI, Act 2011.
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Accountant-General and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
Among the reliefs sought in the suit are:
“A declaration that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the 1st Defendant is under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff with up to date information on the spending of N700bn borrowed between December 31, 2012 and April 30, 2013 and details of projects on which the money was spent.”
“A declaration that the failure of 1st Defendant to provide the Plaintiff with the information requested is a breach of section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information 2011.”
“An order of mandamus directing and/or compelling the 1stDefendant to provide the Plaintiff with up to date information as requested.”
According to the organization, by the clear provisions of section 2(3)(d)(V) of the FOI Act, documents containing information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of a public institution constitute part of the information which a public institution is obligated to publish, disseminate and make available to members of the public.
It also argued that the 1st defendant is legally mandated by the provisions of section 4(a) of the FOI Act to comply with a request for access to public information except where the FOI Act exempts a public official from so disclosing.
The organization further argued that the 1st defendant “has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide the plaintiff with the information requested” and urged the court “to compel it to comply with the provisions of the Act by providing the plaintiff with the information requested.”
A date is yet to be fixed for the hearing of the application.