Court orders govt to clarify $460m Chinese loan for ‘failed Abuja CCTV’ project
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the Federal Government to account for $460 million Chinese loan taken for the ‘failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV)’ project.
The court also ordered government to publish the total amount paid to Chinese, local companies, contractors and specific details of firms for the project.
Justice Emeka Nwite made the orders while delivering his judgment in a Freedom of Information suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019 brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The lawsuit followed the disclosure in 2019 by Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed that, “Nigeria was servicing the loan,” adding that she had no explanations on the status of the project.
She reportedly said: “We are servicing the loan. I have no information on the status of the CCTV project.”
SERAP had, in December 2019, filed a suit against Ahmed over failure to disclose information and specific documents on the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the “apparently failed Abuja CCTV project.”
In his judgment, Justice Nwite agreed with group that there is a reasonable cause of action against the government.
Accounting for spending of the $460 million Chinese loan is in the interest of the public. It will be inimical for the court to refuse SERAP’s application for judicial review of the government’s action, he held.
The judge also stated that the minister is in charge of finance of the country and cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be oblivious of the amount of money paid to contractors for the Abuja CCTV contract, and the money meant for construction of headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).
He, therefore, ordered the government to provide details, clarifying whether the sum of N1.5,000,000,000 paid for the failed contract meant to construct headquarters of CCB was part of another loan obtained from China.
The judge held: “I am of the humble view that there is a reasonable cause of action against the government (through the Minister of Finance) and I so hold that SERAP has made out a case to be entitled to the reliefs sought.
“The law is well settled that where a document or letter is sent by post, it is the law that same is taken or presumed to have been delivered.
“Following this principle of law and relying on exhibit OS2, SERAP’s Freedom of Information request sent to Ahmed is deemed to have delivered. Therefore, the averment by the government (through her) that they were not served with the letter is hereby discountenance. I so hold.”
The organisation’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The onus is now on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately comply with the court’s orders. We commend Justice Nwite for his courage and wisdom, and urge President Buhari and Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to immediately obey the court orders.
“This is a victory for justice, rule of law, transparency and accountability. 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 Buhari.”