Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja has issued a significant ruling, directing the Nigerian Federal government to provide a transparent account of the utilization of a $460 million Chinese loan secured in 2010 for the Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project. The court also demanded the publication of the funds disbursed to both Chinese and local companies and contractors involved in the project. This landmark decision came as a result of a Freedom of Information suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), asserting the need for accountability and transparency in public spending.
SERAP argued that the Nigerian people are burdened with the repayment of Chinese loans for failed projects, without receiving any tangible benefits. They emphasized the urgency of holding the government accountable for the $460 million loan allocated to the ill-fated Abuja CCTV project. SERAP also raised concerns regarding the mismanagement or misappropriation of funds, including the N1.5 billion mobilization fee for the construction of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) headquarters, potentially sourced from another Chinese loan.
Justice Nwite concurred with SERAP’s arguments, acknowledging the existence of a reasonable cause of action against the government. The court ruled in favor of SERAP, ordering the government, through the Minister of Finance, to provide detailed information regarding the disbursement of funds from the $460 million loan. This includes disclosing the names of companies and contractors involved, along with the status of the project’s implementation. Additionally, the court mandated clarification on whether the N1.5 billion mobilization fee for the CCB headquarters construction was part of a separate loan from China.
Emphasizing SERAP’s Objectives:
Justice Nwite recognized SERAP’s core objectives, which focus on promoting human rights, transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption measures in Nigeria. By highlighting the importance of these principles, the court emphasized the significance of holding the government accountable and ensuring the fulfillment of its responsibilities to the Nigerian people.
The recent ruling by the Federal High Court serves as a significant step toward promoting transparency and accountability in public spending. With the court’s directives, the Nigerian government is now compelled to provide detailed information about the $460 million Chinese loan allocated for the Abuja CCTV project. This judgment reaffirms the importance of transparency in governance and sets a precedent for upholding accountability in public expenditure.