Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the federal government to account for the spending of $460 million Chinese loan obtained in 2010 to fund the Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project.
Justice Nwite also directed the government to publish the total amount of money paid to Chinese and local companies and contractors and specific details of the names of the companies and contractors as well as the status of the implementation of the project.
The judge made the orders while delivering judgement in a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019 filed before him by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, and the Minister of Police Affairs.
SERAP had argued in the suit that the continued servicing of the Chinese loans for failed projects is double jeopardy for Nigerians, who can neither see nor benefit from the projects; yet, they are made to pay both the loans and the accrued interests.
The civil society organisation had also submitted that the $460 million loan got for the failed Abuja CCTV project and the N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, which may be part of another Chinese loan, may have been mismanaged or stolen and, in any case, remain unaccounted for.
In his judgment, Justice Nwite agreed with SERAP that “there is a reasonable cause of action” against the government.
The judge, therefore, ordered the government “to provide the details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion 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.
The court held that “SERAP’s core objectives are to promote human rights, transparency and accountability and anticorruption 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 I hold 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 the law that the same is taken or presumed to have been delivered.
“Following this principle of law and relying on exhibit OS2, SERAP’s Freedom of Information request sent to Ms Ahmed is deemed to have been delivered. Therefore, the averment by the government [through her] that they were not served with the letter is hereby discountenance,” the judge said.
Justice Nwite granted the following orders of mandamus against the Nigerian government: it compelled the government [through the Minister of Finance] to provide SERAP information on the total amount of money paid to contractors, with specific details of names of companies local contractors involved, from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China by the Federal Government of Nigeria to fund the failed Abuja CCTV contract.
It further compelled the government to provide the details of the local companies and Chinese contractors that have received funds from the $460 million loan for the finance of the Abuja CCTV contract as well as details of the status of implementation of the project.
The court granted another order compelling the government to provide the details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion mobilisation fee reportedly paid to the contractors for the construction of the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau in Abuja was part of another loan from China.
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