A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to “account for the spending of a $460 million Chinese loan to fund the failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project.”
The Court also ordered the present government to “publish the total amount of money paid to Chinese and local companies and contractors. It should also include specific details of the names of the companies and contractors and the status of the implementation of the project.”
Hon. Justice Emeka Nwite made the order last week while delivering judgment in a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019 brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
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 CCTV project status.”
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In his judgment, Nwite agreed with SERAP that “there is a reasonable cause of action against the government.” Accounting for the $460 million in Chinese loan spending is in the public interest. It will be inimical for the Court to refuse SERAP’s application for judicial review of the government’s action.”
He also said that “the Minister of Finance is in charge of the country’s finances and cannot be oblivious to the amount of money paid to the contractors for the Abuja CCTV contract. He can also be oblivious to the money meant for the construction of the Code of Conduct Bureau headquarters (CCB).”
Justice Nwite also ordered the government “to provide details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira 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.”
Justice Nwite’s judgment read in part: “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 therefore believe 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 taken or presumed to have been delivered.”