Publish names of looters, court orders FG

By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi

A Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, has ordered the Federal Government to “immediately release to Nigerians, 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.”
The judgment was delivered, yesterday, by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari, following a Freedom of Information suit number:  FHC/CS/964/2016 instituted by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
SERAP initiated the suit, last year, after the Federal Government announced recovery of funds from some high-ranking public officials and private individuals.
In the judgment, Justice Shagari agreed with SERAP that “the federal government has legally binding obligations to tell Nigerians the names of all suspected looters of the public treasury, past and present.”
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the ministry were joined as defendants in the suit.
Justice Shagari also granted SERAPS’s prayer that “by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the defendants are under a binding, legal obligation to provide the plaintiff with up to date information relating to the following; to widely disseminate, including on a dedicated website, information about the names of high-ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered since May 2015, the circumstances under which stolen public funds were returned…”
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, who argued the case on behalf of the group, said the judgement was “victory for justice, rule of law, transparency and accountability in this country. The judgment shows the way forward in the fight against corruption and impunity of perpetrators. We will do everything, within the law, to ensure full compliance by President Muhammadu Buhari and Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo with this landmark judgment.”
SERAP insisted that the public interest to know is greater than any other legitimate interest that the government might wish to protect.
“The Nigerian government has an obligation to balance whether the risk of harm to the legitimate aim (that is secrecy of ongoing corruption investigation and presumption of innocence) from disclosure of the names of public officials is greater than the public interest in accessing the information.”
In December 2015, at an anti-corruption summit in London, president Buhari said names of corrupt Nigerians will be made public in an anniversary speech on May 29, 2016, and that they will be prosecuted.
“So far, what has come out, what has been recovered in whatever currency from each ministries, departments and individuals, I intend, on the 29th (May 2016), to speak on this because all Nigerians are getting from the mass media because of the number of people arrested either by the (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Department of State Services. But, we want to make a comprehensive report on the 29th.”
On whether names of those indicted will be published, he added: “As I stated recently, a good number of people who abused their positions are voluntarily returning the illicit funds. I have heard it said that we should disclose the names of the people, and the amount returned. Yes, in due course, the Central Bank of Nigeria will make information available to the public on the surrendered funds, but I must remark that it is yet early days, and any disclosure now may jeopardise the possibility of bigger recoveries. But, we owe Nigerians adequate information, and it shall come in due course. It is part of the collective effort to change our land from the bastion of corruption it currently is, to a place of probity and transparency.”
“People signed for these monies into their personal accounts, their banks gave statements that the money was there, when it came, how much and so on,” the president said then.
Thereafter, the president mandated Mohammed to release the details, which the ministry did last year.
On Monday, January 18, 2016, Mohammed told newsmen, in Abuja that state governors, ministers, business leaders, public officials and bankers allegedly stole $ 6.7 billion in public funds in seven years.
He said some N1.34 trillion ($ 6.72 billion, 6.15 billion euros) was allegedly stolen between 2006 and 2013.
“The situation is dire and the time to act is now,” he said then and gave the following breakdown of the alleged theft by public officers: 15 former state governors stole N146.84 billion; 11 businessmen took N653 billion; eight people in the banking industry stole N524 billion; 12 former state and federal public servants made off with more than N14 billion and four former ministers took N7 billion.”
The information ministry also said recoveries showed that 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.
The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period.
Non-cash recoveries were – farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels.
Subsequently, SERAP issued an FOI request and gave Mohammed 14 days to disclose the names of all suspected looters, which eventually culminated in a court case for which judgement was given, yesterday.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.
The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period. Non-cash recoveries were – farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels.
Subsequently, SERAP issued an FOI request and gave Mohammed 14 days to disclose the names of all suspected looters, which eventually culminated in a court case for which judgement was given, yesterday.


…We’ll release list intermittently, says AGF

The Federal Government has assured it will make public the list of suspected treasury looters intermittently after it has fulfilled judicial principles.
Reacting to Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari’s judgment, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, told State House Correspondents, who sought his reaction, that government was aware of its responsibility as regards disclosures, but insists it would follow due process. He, however, added that government will make the disclosures intermittently, based on the background of the cases.
“I want to place on record that we have in place the Freedom of Information Act and government is fully aware of its responsibility arising from that legislation.
“The issue that is fundamentally worthy of consideration is the fact that the government will definitely be alive to its responsibility as far as those disclosures are concerned. You have to take into consideration that there are a lot of factors as far as making those disclosures are concerned.
“So, government will, at the appropriate time, make necessary disclosures, perhaps intermittently, against the background of the prevailing conditions relating to the tendency of certain suits and associated things,” he said.
Malami noted that some matters that are pending in court are subjudice.
The AGF assured that the disclosure will definitely be made “but then, it is contingent on the consummation of associated considerations as it relates to subjudiced principles, as it relates to concluding of reconciliations and confirmation of figures.”

Share

National – The Sun News

About John Ogbonna

Check Also

DFU84ZQXUAI4mAQ-1

Lagos LG Election: Group attributes low turnout to lack of awareness

The group also said that the apathy showed by the people was not good for ...