Court grants SERAP permission to seek documents on recovered public funds

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a civil society group which works towards transparency and accountability in the private and public sectors, has received a court approval to compel the federal government to disclose information and documents on the spending of recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999.

The order by a Federal High Court sitting in Ikeja has now cleared the way for SERAP to advance its case against the government.

This information was disclosed in a statement released on Wednesday by the organization’s executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.

The order granted by Justice Steven Adah on Tuesday 7 February 2012, followed the hearing of argument from SERAP’s Staff Attorney, Oyindamola Musa, on the application for leave for an order of mandamus against the Accountant-General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.

Justice Adah also granted SERAP the leave to serve processes on the two respondents, and adjourned the case to 21 February 2012 for hearing of argument on why the government should not be compelled to disclose details and documents relating to the projects on which recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999 have been spent.

The respondents are expected to have filed and served their replies and served same on the applicant before the date.

The suit followed a Freedom of Information request dated 26 September 2011 made by SERAP.

The motion exparte with suit number FHC/IKJ/CS/248/2011 alleges “failure of the government to release information and documents on the spending of recovered stolen funds.”

The plaintiff is arguing that under the FOI Act, it has the right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.

According to the plaintiff, “the disclosure of the information requested will give the general public a true picture and a clear understanding of how the spending of recovered public stolen funds have impacted on the lives of the poor and indigent and other disadvantaged Nigerians.”

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