Court orders Buhari's government to release name of high-ranking looters

Court orders Buhari's government to release name of high-ranking looters

- A Federal High Court has urged President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to list names of looters

- Federal government was said to have recovered undisclosed amount from some high-ranking public officials and private individuals last year

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government to list names of suspected looters.

The court enjoined the government to immediately release names of high-ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered.

The order was made on Wednesday, July 4, by Hon Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari after a freedom of information suit number: FHC/CS/964/2016 brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

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Daily Sun reports that joined as defendants in the suit are Alhaji Lai Muhammed, the minister of information and and the federal ministry of information and culture.

NAIJ.com gathered that Justice Shagari also granted the following reliefs:

A declaration 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:

1. 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

2. The circumstances under which stolen public funds were returned

Timothy Adewale, SERAP deputy director who argued the case on behalf of SERAP and was in court this morning when the judgment was delivered said “This is a 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 Mohammadu Buhari and Acting President Osinbajo with this landmark judgment.

''It would be recalled that the Ministry of Information last year published details of the recoveries, which 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.

''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.

''Subsequently, SERAP was issued an FOI request and gave the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed 14 days to disclose the names of all suspected looters.

The request read in part: “While we believe that suspects generally are entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, SERAP opposes blanket non-disclosure of names of high-ranking public officials from whom some of the funds were recovered.

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“SERAP insists 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.”

“According to public interest test, even if the government demonstrates that the publication of the names of public officials would substantially harm a legitimate interest.

''It is nevertheless obliged to disclose the requested information if, as it is the case here, the public interest in disclosure is sufficient enough to overweigh the harm.”

Meanwhile, NAIJ.com had reported that the the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) was suing the federal government and Lai Mohammed, the minister of information in particluar.

Mohammed was sued after he ignored a Freedom of Information request 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.

Watch this NAIJ.com TV Video of what Nigerians are saying whether there is corrupt politician:

Source: Naij.com

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