A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to “account for the spending of a $460 million Chinese loan to fund the failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project.”
In addition, the Court ordered the current government to “publish the total amount of money paid to Chinese and local companies and contractors, as well as the names of the companies and contractors, and the status of the project’s implementation.”
Justice Emeka Nwite issued the order last week in a Freedom of Information case brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and assigned the case number FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019.
The lawsuit was filed after the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, revealed in 2019 that “Nigeria was servicing the loan” and that she had “no explanations on the status of the project.”
Apparently, she stated, “We are servicing the loan.” I am unaware of the current status of the CCTV initiative."
In his judgment, Nwite concurred with SERAP that “there is a valid claim against the government. The public has an interest in knowing how the $460 million Chinese loan was spent. It would be against the interests of the Court to deny SERAP’s request for judicial review of the government’s action.”
He also stated, “The Minister of Finance is in charge of the country’s finances and cannot be unaware of the amount of money paid to the contractors for the Abuja CCTV contract and the money intended for the construction of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) headquarters.”
Justice Nwite also ordered the government to clarify whether the N1.5 billion Naira paid for the failed contract to build the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) was part of a second loan obtained from China.
In part, Justice Nwite’s ruling stated: "SERAP’s primary goals are to promote human rights, transparency and accountability, and anti-corruption in Nigeria.
"I am of the humble opinion that there is a plausible cause of action against the government [through the Minister of Finance] and that SERAP has established its entitlement to the reliefs requested.
“It is a well-established principle of law that when a document or letter is mailed, it is presumed to have been delivered.”