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Account for recovered loot, court orders Obasanjo, Jonathan

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A court in Abuja has ordered former Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to account for recovered loots since the return to civil rule in 1999, to account on the spending of recovered loot.

The judge faulted the non-disclosure of the details of how recovered loot from corrupt public officials was spent by successive civilian governments since 1999.

Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo

The judge said those administrations from that of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to that of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and that of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, breached the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability for their failure to make public, details of how the recovered loot was spent.

The judge made the pronouncement in his judgment in a Freedom of Information suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project against the Federal Government.

The group had sought, among others, a declaration that “the failure and/or refusal of the respondents to individually and/or collectively disclose detailed information about the spending of recovered stolen public funds since the return of civil rule in 1999” was unlawful.

The applicant had urged the court to hold that the failure was a breach of Articles 9, 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, which upholds the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability.

SERAP had sought an order of mandamus compelling the respondents to furnish it with a detailed information of the total loot recovered, the amount spent and what projects the recovered loot was used to execute.

Justice Idris, while granting the plaintiff’s prayer, ordered President Muhammadu Buhari to ‘ensure that his government, and the governments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and former President Goodluck Jonathan account fully for all recovered loot.’

The judge rejected the preliminary objection by the Federal Government challenging SERAP’s locus standi to file the suit.

SERAP had contended that the FOI Act is a special specie of legislation to liberalise and expand access to information for all Nigerians.

It argued that the Act did not impose any requirement of locus standi on it, adding that the only relevant limitation period in the case is that which requires filing of suit within 30 days if information,

The judge upheld the argument and gave judgment in its favour.

Reacting to the judgment, SERAP’s Deputy Executive Director, Olukayode Majekodunmi, said, “This judgment confirms the persistent failure of successive governments starting from the Obasanjo government, to respect Nigerians’ right to a corruption-free society and to uphold constitutional and international commitments on transparency and accountability.

“The judgment is an important step towards reversing a culture of secrecy and corruption that has meant that high-ranking government officials continue to look after themselves at the expense of the well-being of majority of Nigerians, and development of the country.”

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