Nigerian Group Appeals Denial by World Bank

10 February 2016

A Nigerian non-governmental organization has asked the World Bank to reconsider its denial of information about corruption by a former general and de facto Nigerian president.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an appeal to Access to Information (AI) Appeals Board challenging the World Bank’s Nov. 25, 2015, decision “to provide patently insufficient information on the spending of recovered stolen funds by the late General Sani Abacha,” in the words of the group’s press release.

The organization called the decision “a serious violation of the AI Policy, as it amounts to improper or unreasonable restriction of access to information.”

In the Feb. 5, 2016 appeal by SERAP deputy executive director Olukayode Majekodunmi the organisation said, “Following receipt of several documents from the World Bank totalling over 700 pages on the Abacha loot, SERAP commenced independent investigations and verification of some of the information supplied with appropriate agencies and institutions of government.”

The appeal says: “SERAP is concerned that the World Bank failed and/or neglected to provide several portions of the information requested on the spending of recovered Abacha loot managed by the Bank.”

“SERAP notes that one of the guiding principles of the Policy on Access to Information (AI Policy) is recognizing the right to an appeals process when a request for information in the World Bank’s possession is improperly or unreasonably denied.”

“SERAP argues that there is a strong public interest case here to override the corporate administrative matters, deliberative information or financial information exceptions of the AI Policy if the information being requested falls under one of these exceptions.”

“SERAP believes that it is not harmful for the Bank to disclose specific details of the information requested. SERAP also notes that the sole remedy available to those who prevail in the appeals process is to receive the information requested.”

SERAP therefore requested the Access to Information (AI) Appeals Board to exercise its prerogative and allow disclosure of the following specific information and any feedback from the World Bank Evaluation Team on the issues below:

  1. Evidence and list of the 23 projects allegedly completed with recovered Abacha loot, and whether the 26 projects where actually completed; and what became of the 2 abandoned projects.
  2. Evidence and location of the 8 health centers built with recovered Abacha loot reviewed by the World Bank
  3. Evidence and location of the 18 power projects confirmed by the World Bank
  4. How the $50mn Abacha loot received before 2005 kept in the special account was spent
  5. Evidence and location of schools which benefited from the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program in the amount of NGN24.25bn
  6. Evidence and location of the 13 road projects completed with the recovered Abacha loot, including the names of the 3 of the largest road and bridge projects in each geo-political zone
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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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