The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has ordered the “immediate release of details of payments to all defaulting and allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies by the governments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and the government of Muhammadu Buhari.”
The judgment was delivered last Friday by Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor, a Professor of Law, following a Freedom of Information suit number FHC/L/CS/105/19 brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Justice Obiozor also ordered: “the full disclosure and publication of the names of companies and the whereabouts of the contractors paid by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 to carry out electricity projects across the country but disappeared with the money without executing any projects.”
This development was disclosed on Sunday in a statement by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.
The details ordered by the court to be disclosed and published on a dedicated website and widely, include information on: “specific names and details about contractors and companies paid by each government, the total amounts paid by each government and the objects for the payments, the level of implementation of electricity projects, as well as details and specific locations of projects executed across the country by each government since 1999.”
The court also ruled in the suit brought against the Federal Government and the Ministry of Power, that: “the failure by the government of President Muhammadu to provide SERAP with the details of payments made to contractors by each government since 1999 is a breach of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.”
The court also ordered the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to “urgently disclose if there is an ongoing investigation or prosecution of contractors and companies paid by successive governments since 1999 to carry out electricity projects but failed to execute the projects for which public funds were collected.”
Reacting, SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “We welcome the ground-breaking judgment by Justice Obiozor as a victory for transparency and accountability of public officials, electricity contractors and companies and their shareholders. It is an extremely important step toward tackling the impunity in electricity sector, which has for many years forced ordinary Nigerians to stay in darkness, but still made to pay crazy electricity bills.
“SERAP commends the Court, and Justice Obiozor for this brilliant judgment, which will surely command respect and adulation from far beyond the legal profession.
“During the 20 years of Nigeria’s democracy successive governments have failed to increase power generation and provide Nigerians with regular and uninterrupted electricity supply, with many electricity contracts shrouded in secrecy, and trillions of Naira going down the drain.
“This judgment is good news for ordinary Nigerians who have continued to pay the price for corruption in the electricity sector, as they would finally get an explanation on why the country has remained in darkness despite huge investment in the power sector by the governments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and the government of Muhammadu Buhari.
“The enforcement of the judgment could potentially reveal individuals, contractors, and companies allegedly responsible for squandering over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply under successive governments, lead to the prosecution of suspected perpetrators, and recovery of stolen public funds”.
It would be called that SERAP had in February filed the FOI suit against the Federal Government and former Minister of Power Mr Babatunde Fashola. The former minister then responded, saying that: “the Ministry has searched for the requested information on details of alleged contractors and companies but we could not find it from our records.”
Mr Fashola subsequently sent SERAP the name of just one contractor–Pow Technologies Limited, an Abuja based company–through the Ministry’s letter with reference number FMP/LU/R2K/2016/T/40. The company was said to have been awarded a contract in 2014 but only supplied 13 of the 19 electricity maintenance equipment relays agreed. The government paid N79,404,892.66 to Pow Technologies Limited.
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