Court orders FG to publish alleged looters names, amount recovered

A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the Federal Government to without any further delay, make public 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 of funds recovered from each official.The order was contained in a judgment delivered yesterday by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari, following a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/CS/964/2016 brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) against the Federal Government.

The suit was instituted following a disclosure last year that funds were recovered from some high-ranking public officials and private individuals.

 Justice Shagari in the judgment agreed with SERAP that “the Federal Government has a legally binding obligations to tell Nigerians the names of all suspected looters of the public treasury past and present.”

Joined, as defendants are the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

Justice Shagari also granted the reliefs sought by SERAP, which include, 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 widely disseminate including on a dedicated website information about the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds were recovered since May 2015 and the circumstances under which stolen public funds were returned.

Speaking on the verdict, SERAP Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, who argued the case on behalf of the group, said: “This is a victory for justice, rule of law, transparency and accountability in this country. 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.”

Last year, the Ministry of Information published details of the recoveries, which showed that the Federal Government successfully retrieved N78,325, 354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11, 250 between May 29, 2015 and May 25, 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.

Anticipated repatriation from foreign countries totaled: $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.

Subsequently, SERAP issued an FOI request and gave the Minister of Information 14 days to disclose the names of all suspected looters.