‘Deployment of N388b London Paris Club largesse confidential’
The Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, has told a Federal High Court, Lagos that the spending of N388.304 billion London Paris Club refunds by the states “is protected by professional privilege, and therefore confidential.”
He was responding to a suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The group is seeking an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling the government to publish details of how the largesse was spent.
But Idris argued that “the relationship between the Accountant General and the 36 states is professional and confidential.”
According to him, the tie was fiduciary, similar to the one between a bank as well as its customers and allied professionals.
“On that score, the record of the spending of N388.304 billion London Paris Club loan refunds by the 36 states is exempted from publication, assuming the Federal Government has the information sought by SERAP,” he stated.
The trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, had ruled June this year that SERAP could proceed with the legal challenge to unravel how the funds were spent.
In granting the leave, he had stressed that it was important for the authorities “to come and tell us how they spent our money.”
In its defence, the Federal Government argued that “the Accountant General does not have custody or possession of the information or record relating to the spending of refunds by 36 states.
“The Accountant General did not release the funds to the states.”
However, the plaintiff argued that “due to non-payment of overdue pensions and salaries of workers by the states, citizens have continued to languish in untold hardship and poverty. Therefore, there is compelling public interest in knowing how exactly the refunds were spent. There is also no professional relationship or privilege between the Accountant General and the 36 states as to warrant any duty of confidentiality on the part of the Accountant General.”
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