SERAP sues FG over failure to name suspected looters

MalamiSocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has approached a Federal high court sitting in Lagos seeking its order compelling the Federal Government to release the names of public officers who looted the nation’s treasuries, the amount looted and the circumstances under which stolen public funds so far recovered from the affected officers were retrieved.

It would be recalled that the Federal Ministry of Information had recently published details of latest recoveries by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.

The details had showed that  the Nigerian government successfully retrieved total cash amount N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11, 250 between May 29, 2015 and May 25, 2016.

Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, £2,484,447.55 and €303,399.17.

Anticipated repatriation from foreign countries totalled: $321,316,726.1, £6,900,000 and €11,826.11.

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The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period.

The non-cash recoveries are – farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels

But details of those who either returned the loot or from whom such funds were retrieved were not made public as earlier promised by government.

The Federal Government had said that releasing the details would hamper the on-going efforts to retrieve more from the public officers.

Aggrieved, SERAP had gone before the Federal high court, last Friday at the Federal High Court Ikoyi for an order compelling the government to release details of those who returned the published returned loots.

SERAP invoked section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information Act to make the request.

Specifically, SERAP wanted the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed to use his good offices to “provide information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered and the circumstances under which funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.”

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The originating summons with suit number FHC/CS/964/2016 signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni

.Joined as Defendants in the suit are the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

The Plaintiff is arguing that, “by a letter with reference No MJ/FOI/GEN/014/1/54 and dated 21 June 2016, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, for handling.

However, since the receipt of the FOI request and the confirmation by Mr Malami that the request was brought to the attention of the Defendants for handling, and up till the filing of this suit, the defendants have so far failed, refused and/or neglected to provide SERAP with the details of the information requested.”