The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the Federal Government to publish the names and other details of contractors who allegedly collected money and disappeared without executing awarded electricity projects since the return to democracy in 1999.
Justice Chuka Obiozor handed down the order on Friday in a suit filed by anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, against the Ministry of Power.
A statement on Sunday by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, quoted Justice Obiozor as ordering “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.”
It added, “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 that ‘the failure by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari 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 judge was quoted to have also ordered the Buhari government 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.”
SERAP said it filed the suit following the failure of the Ministry of Power to oblige its request for detailed information on the alleged runaway contractors.
The group said in January that his request followed a claim by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar that some contractors, who were awarded electricity contracts, disappeared after being fully paid for the contracts.
“The money went down the drain. Up till now, we are not holding the contractors responsible. People have collected money upfront, one hundred per cent, and have disappeared; and they have not even done any work,” Atiku was quoted to have said during a programme on Channels TV.
Oludare commended Justice Obiozor’s judgment, which he described as brilliant and ground-breaking.
He 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 while still being made to pay crazy electricity bills.” [PUNCH]