SERAP seeks execution of verdict on recovered loot

BuhariPresident Muhammadu Buhari has been advised not to delay implementation of the court judgement that ordered him to publish up-to-date information on the spending of recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999.

A Lagos-based group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), yesterday wrote to
the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), urging him to ensure and facilitate full, effective and timely enforcement and implementation of the judgment by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos.

Details of the judgment in which the court ordered Buhari to publish widely the spending of recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999 are contained in the certified true copy sent to Malami.

In the letter, SERAP said: “Given the relative newness of the Buhari government, the effective enforcement and implementation of the judgment will invariably involve setting up a mechanism by the government to invite the leadership and high-ranking officials of the governments of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan to explain, clarify and provide evidence on the amounts of stolen funds recovered by their respective governments (from abroad and within Nigeria), and the projects (including their locations) on which the funds were spent.”

“SERAP therefore believes that the swift enforcement and implementation of this landmark judgment by the government of President Buhari will be litmus test for the President’s oft-repeated commitments to transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption, and for the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act in general,” SERAP said.

According to the group, “The enforcement and implementation of the judgment should not be delayed as to do this is to continue to frustrate the victims of corruption in the country since the return of democracy in 1999, and will threaten to undermine the authority of our judicial system.

“SERAP trusts that you will see compliance with this judgment as a central aspect of the rule of law; an essential stepping stone to constructing a basic institutional framework for legality, constitutionality, the rule of law practice and culture in the country. We therefore look forward to your positive response and action on the judgment,” the organisation said.

The 69-page judgment dated March 24 2016 and signed by Justice Mohammed Idris, a copy of which was made available to The Guardian yesterday 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.”

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