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Court grants SERAP leave to compel Babatunde Fashola over N900bn spent on power privatisation

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There is prospect Nigerians keen on knowing why the power sector reforms in the country have not yielded any tangible result and why the citizens continue to stay in darkness but still made to pay crazy electricity bills, despite the huge spending on the sector, may soon have some answers, as the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos today granted leave to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to seek its reliefs to compel the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Mr Babatunde Fashola SAN to account for the spending.

Lagos Governor, Babatunde Fashola
Governor Fashola

Hon. Justice C.J. Aneke granted SERAP leave as prayed to seek judicial review and order of mandamus to compel Mr Fashola over the “failure to account for the spending on the privatisation of the electricity sector and the exact amount of post-privatisation spendingon generation companies (GENCOS), distribution companies (DISCOS) and Transmission Company of Nigeria to date, and to explain if such spending came from budgetary allocations or other sources.”

Justice Aneke granted the order for leave following the hearing of an argument in court on exparte motion by SERAP counsel Ms Bamisope Adeyanju. The Court also ruled that Mr Fashola be put on notice and adjourned the matter to Tuesday 20th November 2018 for mention.

It would be recalled that SERAP had in June sued Mr Fashola in suit number FHC/L/CS/972/18 at the Federal High Court seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling Mr Fashola to provide specific detailson the privatization of the electricity sector, the names of all the companies and individuals involved; and to publish widely including on a dedicated website any such information.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information request dated 7 May 2018 to Mr Fashola giving him 14 days to provide “information on the status of implementation of the 25-year national energy development plan, and whether the Code of Ethics of the privatization process which bars staff of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and members of the National Council on Privatization (NCP) from buying shares in companies being privatized were deliberately flouted.”

The suit read in part: “Most of the companies that won the bids had no prior experience in the power sector and little or no capacity at all to manage the sector. The privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) have yielded the country total darkness. The gains of privatization have been lost through alleged corruption, manipulation of rules and disregard to extant laws and lack of transparency in the exercise.”

“The Goodluck Jonathan government reportedly spent over N400 billion on the power sector while the present government spent over N500 billion on the sector despite privatisation. It is unclear if this spending is drawn from budgetary allocations and if these are loans to generation companies (GENCOS), Distribution companies (DISCOS) and Transmission Company of Nigeria.”

“Publishing the information requested and making it widely available to the public would serve the public interest and provide insights relevant to the public debate on the ongoing efforts to prevent and combat a culture of mismanagement of public funds, corruption and impunity of perpetrators.”

“To further highlight the seriousness of the situation, several years after the country’s power sector was privatized, millions of Nigerian households particularly the socially and economically vulnerable sectors of the population continue to complain about outrageous bills for electricity not consumed, and poor power supply from distribution firms. Millions of Nigerians continue to be exploited through the use of patently illegal estimated billing by DISCOs. One wonders the essence of the privatization if there has been no corresponding improvement in power for Nigerians.”

“Enforcing the right to truth would allow Nigerians to gain access to information essential to the fight against corruption and provide a form of reparation to victims of grand corruption in the power sector. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment 3 has implied that privatization process should not be detrimental to the effective realization of all human rights, including access to regular electricity supply.”

“SERAP has the right to request the information under contention on the basis of several provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011. By Section (1) of the FoI Act, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on post-privatization spending by the Federal Government and accounts of spending on the private entities such asGENCOS and DISCOS.”

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