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SERAP demands details of spending on electricity projects

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Electricity grid

Faults release of W’Bank’s $500m grant to FG

Socio Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged World Bank President, Mr. David Malpass, to exercise the bank’s prerogative by releasing archival records and documents relating to the spending of all funds approved to improve access to electricity in Nigeria between 1999 and 2020.

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SERAP also urged the global financial institution to reveal its role in the implementation of any funded electricity projects and to name any such projects and Nigerian officials, ministries, departments and agencies involved in their execution.

According to the group, the World Bank’s board of directors had last week approved $500million to help boost access to electricity in Nigeria and improve the performance of electricity distribution companies in the country.

In an application for the spending details dated February 6, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation urged the global bank to explain the rationale for approving $500m to implement electricity projects in the country, despite reports of widespread and systemic corruption in the sector and failure of authorities to enforce a court judgment ordering release of details of payments to allegedly corrupt electricity contractors.

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“This application is brought pursuant to the World Bank’s Access to Information Policy, which aims to maximize access to information and promote the public good. There is a public interest in Nigerians knowing about the bank’s supervisory role and specifically its involvement in the implementation of electricity projects, which it has so far funded,” SERAP said.

The body noted that the $500million is part of the over one billion dollars available to Nigeria under the project titled “Nigeria Distribution Sector Recovery Program.”

“We would be grateful for details of any transparency and accountability mechanisms under the agreement for the release of funds, including whether there is any provision that would allow Nigerians and civil society to monitor the spending of the money by the government, its agencies, and electricity distribution companies.

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“Should the bank fail and/or refuse to release the information and documents as requested, SERAP would file an appeal to the secretariat of the Access to Information Committee to challenge any such decision, and if it becomes necessary, to the Access to Information Appeals Board.

”We may also consider other legal options outside the Bank’s Access to Information framework,” the group said.

The letter copied to the World Bank Country Director, Shubham Chaudhuri, also read in part: “SERAP believes that releasing the information and documents would enable Nigerians and civil society to meaningfully engage in the implementation of electricity projects funded by the bank, contribute to the greater public good, and enhance the bank’s oft-stated commitment to transparency and accountability.

“The World Bank has been and continued to be involved in overseeing transfer, disbursement, spending of funds on electricity projects in Nigeria. The bank also reportedly approved a $750 million loan for Nigeria’s electricity sector in June 2020 to cut tariff shortfalls, protect the poor from price adjustments, and increase power supply to the grid. As such, the World Bank is not a neutral party in this matter.”

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