A federal high court, Lagos has given the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) a go-ahead to compel the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, to name the contractors that allegedly collected money but refused to execute electricity projects in the country.
The ruling was sequel to a suit filed by the rights organisation seeking for an order of mandamus compelling the minister to disclose the affected persons.
SERAP, had in January this year, issued a Freedom of Information request and sued the former governor of Lagos State following allegations by erstwhile Vice President Atiku Abubakar that “contractors who were paid 100 per cent upfront for power projects disappeared with public funds without carrying out any work.”
The order last weekend by Justice Chuka Obiozor now clears the way for the group to impress it on Fashola to publish “the names of all contractors and companies engaged in the power sector since the return of democracy in 1999 and details of the specific projects and the amounts paid for them.”
The judge granted the order after hearing the argument for an ex-parte motion by SERAP’s counsel, Mrs. Adelanke Aremo. He also ruled that the minister be put on notice before adjourning to April 11, 2019 for the hearing of arguments on the motion on notice
Fashola had early last month written to the group, promising: “to refer the request for details of alleged contractors and companies that collected money for electricity projects and failed to execute them to the ministry’s agencies for necessary action and appropriate response.”
The response was an addition to the one written to SERAP in February where he said: “We have searched the ministry’s record and the information you applied for is not held by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing (Power Sector).
”However, the petitioner disagreed with the response, saying: “The public expectation is that government information, when in the hands of any public institutions and agencies, should be available to the public, as prescribed by the FOI Act. The FOI Act should always be used as an authority for disclosing information rather than withholding it.”
But Fashola retorted: “The ministry’s letter to your organisation was not an attempt to deny the request for information. The ministry is committed to compliance with the laws of Nigeria, including the Freedom of Information Act, 2011. The ministry will refer your request to its agencies for necessary action and appropriate response.”
Source: By Joseph Onyekwere