Monday, March 28, 2016 12:45 pm
The Federal High Court, Lagos has insisted on enforcement of the judgment ordering the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to publish widely the spending of recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999.
The details of the judgment are contained in the certified true copies sent today by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP to Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
The 69-page judgment dated 24 March 2016 and signed by Honourable Justice Mohammed Idris reads in part: “Transparency in the decision making process and access to information upon which decisions have been made can enhance accountability.”
“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the Constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a constitutional democracy like ours, this is meant to be the norm.”
“I am of the view that on receipt of SERAP request, the government had the duty to respond to same. If it does hold the information it must supply it within 7 days from receipt of the request. Where a decision to withhold information is taken, the government/relevant authorities must inform the plaintiff of its reason. In respect of the SERAP reliefs on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999, the government had kept mute. Let me say that they have no such power under the law.”
“There is public interest in public authorities and high-profile individuals being accountable for the quality of their decision making. Ensuring that decisions have been made on the basis of quality legal advice is part of accountability.”
“The judiciary has no choice but to enforce compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. There is no doubt that the FOI Act is intended to act as a catalyst for change in the way public authorities approach and manage public resources and records. The judiciary cannot shirk its sacred responsibility to the nation to maintain the rule of law.”
“I am of the view and do hold that the action should and does succeed in whole. Documents relating to the receipt or expenditure on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999 constitute part of the information which a public institution and authority is obligated to publish, disseminate and make available to members of the public. The government has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested, and therefore, this Court ought to compel the government to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, as the government is not above the law.”
“Examples of cases where there may be a public interest in the disclosure of confidential information include: 1. Information revealing misconduct/mismanagement of public funds. 2. Information which shows that a particular contract is bad value for money. 3. Where the information would correct untrue statements or misleading acts on the part of public authorities or high-profile individuals.”