Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari of the Federal High Court in Lagos today ordered the Federal Government to immediately release to Nigerians information about the names of high-ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered and the circumstances under which funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount recovered from each public official.
Justice Shagari gave the order while delivering judgment in a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/CS/964/2016 brought before her by civil organization, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). SERAP had filed the lawsuit after the Ministry of Information released a statement last year saying it had recovered some money from some public officers from May 2015 to May 2016. SERAP had approached the Ministry of Information for a comprehensive list of those that the loots were recovered from, threatening to take legal action if the list wasn’t provided within 14 days.
Upon the expiration of the ultimatum, SERAP filed the lawsuit. Joined as Defendants in the suit were the Minister of Information Alhaji Lai Muhammed and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. Justice Shagari while delivering judgement today, granted the following reliefs: -A declaration that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Defendants are under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff with up to date information relating to the following: -To widely disseminate including a dedicated website information about the names of high-ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered since May 2015, the circumstances under which stolen public funds were returned. In the statement released last year, the Ministry of Information said the Federal government had successfully retrieved total cash amount N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11, 250 between May 29th 2015 to May 25th 2016. Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, £2,484,447.55 and €303,399.17. Loots stocked in foreign accounts which were expected to be repatriated totalled: $321,316,726.1, £6,900,000 and €11,826.11.
The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period. The non-cash recoveries are – farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels. Speaking after the judgment today, Deputy Director of SERAP, Timothy Adewale, said the organization will do everything to ensure full compliance by President Buhari and acting president Yemi Osinbajo “The judgment shows the way forward in the fight against corruption and impunity of perpetrators. We will do everything within the law to ensure full compliance by President Muhammadu Buhari and Acting President Osinbajo with this landmark judgment”he said