Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has commenced committal to prison hearings against the Federal Government, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris.
They are being tried “for having neglected to obey the order of the court made on Friday February, 26, requiring them to provide SERAP with up to date information on the spending of recovered stolen funds since the return of democracy in 1999”.
A statement by SERAP said that the information ordered to be released by Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court Lagos include specific details on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets by governments since 1999; the amount that has been spent from the recovered stolen public assets and the objects of such spending; as well as details and location of specific projects on which recovered stolen public assets were spent.
The Form 49 “notice to show cause why order of committal should not be made” was filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos last week by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni “following the service on Mr Malami and Mr Idris of Form 48 contempt suit, and the certified true copy of the judgment.”
Mumuni said, “Despite the service of both form 48 and the certified true copy of the judgment on both the Attorney General of the Federation and the Accountant-General of the Federation they have failed and/or neglected to acknowledge the judgment let alone obey it”.
“It has become painfully clear since the judgment was delivered that this government has no plan to enforce it. It’s dismaying that a government, which builds its reputation on combating grand corruption has not embraced the enormous opportunities the judgment provides to open the book on what exactly happened to recovered loot.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable to take the court, which is the guardian of justice in this country, for a ride. A democratic state based on the rule of law cannot exist or function, if the government ignores and/or fails to abide by Court orders,” Mumuni said.
The 69-page judgment in suit no: FHC/IKJ/CS/248/2011 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.”
The group further pointed out that in respect of its reliefs on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999, the government had kept mute, insisting that the government had 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.
“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,” SERAP pointed out.