SERAP Responds To Fashola’s ‘No Corrupt’ Electricity Contractor

Ngozi Egenuka

Socio-Economic Rights and
Accountability Project (SERAP) has said that attempts to limit
disclosure of information of public interest would weaken the
government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

This
was in response to the letter by Minister of Power, Works and Housing,
Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN, that the names of contractors that collected
public funds meant for electricity projects could not be found in the
Ministry records

Fashola said, “We have searched the Ministry’s
record and the information you applied for is not held by the Federal
Ministry of Power, Works and Housing (Power Sector).”

The letter
signed on Fashola’s behalf by Mrs Shoetan A. A, Director (Legal
Services) read in part: “I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of
your letter dated 4th January 2019 in which you applied for request to
disclose details of alleged corrupt contractors and companies that
collected money for electricity projects but failed to execute any
projects. The request has been handled under the FOI Act.”

Fashola’s response followed SERAP’s suit number FHC/L/CS/105/19 filed last month at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The
suit is seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an
order of mandamus directing and/or compelling Fashola to provide
specific details on the names and whereabouts of the contractors who
collected public funds meant for electricity projects but disappeared
with the money without executing any projects.”

SERAP in its last
letter, dated February 8, 2019, and signed by its Deputy Director
Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The public expectation is that government
information when in the hands of any public institutions and agencies,
should be available to the public, as prescribed by the FOI Act. The FOI
Act should always be used as an authority for disclosing information
rather than withholding it.”

The letter also said a case has been
filed for the Ministry to release the information and urged them to go
to any length to acquire the necessary information.

“Although, we
have filed a case in court for remedial action and seeking an order to
compel you and your Ministry to release the information requested, we
urge you to take proactive steps to obtain the information from any
other public institution or agency that may be holding the requested
information, and to send to us the information without further delay.
Your Ministry should not wait until the court makes it decision to
compel you to disclose the requested information.

“Proactively
releasing the information to SERAP and publishing it widely will
strengthen the proper implementation of the FOI Act, promote
accessibility and openness in government as well as show that the
government will not shield the affected contractors and companies from
accountability.”