Nigerian Judge Orders Release of Data on Looted Funds

2 March 2016

The Nigerian Federal High Court has ruled that the government must disclose information about stolen public funds, rejecting a government argument that the request covered a period before enactment of the freedom of information act.

The court ordered the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to “ensure that his government, and the governments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and former President Goodluck Jonathan account fully for all recovered loot.”

Justice M.B. Idris ruled in a freedom of information suit filed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), which issued a press release on the victory. The group is also seeking information on the same subject from the World Bank. (See previous report.)

The court said the government should release information on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets by each government, the amount of recovered stolen public assets spent by each government as well as the objects of such spending and the projects on which such funds were spent.

SERAP deputy executive director, Olukayode Majekodunmi, called the decision “a crucial precedent that vindicates the right to a transparent and accountable government.”

The government had argued that SERAP lacked standing to sue, that the action was untimely, and that since the FOI Act was enacted in 2011, citizens could not demand disclosure of government spending since 1999.

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