A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the federal government to immediately release to Nigerians information on the names of high ranking public officials from whom public funds have been recovered and the circumstances under which the funds were recovered, as well as the exact amount of funds recovered from each public official.
Reacting to the ruling, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the federal government would comply with the judgment of the court by publishing the names of public officials who have returned looted funds to the treasury.
Also while responding to questions from State House correspondents Wednesday after the weekly
Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, Malami said the cabinet has no position on the Senate’s rejection of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, resulting in renewed hostilities this week between the executive and Senate and its decision not to consider new nominations from the executive.
Malami said no position was taken on the matter, describing it as a trivial issue that FEC would not dissipate its energy on, since it was not decided upon by council.
At the Federal High Court, Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari gave the order for the release of names of public official who had returned looted funds, while delivering judgment in a suit challenging the refusal of the federal government to disclose information to a civil society organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), following a request made to it under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
In her judgment, Justice Shagari agreed with SERAP that government had a legally binding obligation to tell Nigerians the names of all suspected looters of the public treasury, past and present.
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, and the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture were the defendants in the suit.
The judge also declared that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act, government was under a binding legal obligation to provide the plaintiff with up to date information by disseminating, 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 the funds were returned.
In his reaction to the ruling, SERAP’s Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, who argued the case 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.
“We will do everything within the law to ensure full compliance by President Mohammadu Buhari and Acting President Osinbajo with this landmark judgment.”
The information ministry last year published details of the recovered funds, which showed that the Nigerian government successfully retrieved total cash amounts of 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 court orders, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period as follows: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, £2,484,447.55 and €303,399.17, while anticipated repatriation from foreign countries totalled $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 were farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels.