Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information request to Babatunde Fashola, SAN, Minister of Power, Works and Housing urging him to use his good offices and leadership position to “urgently provide information on specific names and details of contractors and companies that allegedly collected money for electricity projects but failed to execute any projects, starting from the return of democracy in 1999 to 2018.”
According to SERAP, former Nigeria’s Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar reportedly blew the whistle on Channels TV when he said, “Contractors were given some contracts for power projects and were paid hundred percent upfront. The money went down the drain. Up till now, we are not holding the contractors responsible. People have collected money upfront one hundred percent and have disappeared; and have not even done any work.”
SERAP said: “The revelation by Alhaji Atiku is entirely consistent with SERAP’s recent report titled: From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are Paying the Price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector, which also revealed how over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply was allegedly squandered by politicians and contractors under successive governments.”
In the FOI request dated 4 January, 2019 and signed by SERAP senior legal adviser Bamisope Adeyanju, the organization said: “By publishing the names of the contractors and their registration details, if any, Nigerians will be better able to hold them to account for allegedly absconding with public funds meant for electricity projects, thereby throwing the country into perpetual darkness and socio-economic stagnation as well as denying people their human rights.”
The organization also said: “Publishing the names will make it hard for contractors and companies to get away with complicity in grand corruption. If the requested information is not provided within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.”
The FOI request read in part: “It is important to show that your office and indeed this administration would not shield or allow ingrained wrongdoing by contractors and companies in the power sector to go unpunished. Unless the names of the contractors and companies are disclosed and widely published, alleged corrupt contractors and companies executing electricity projects will not be deterred and the victims of corruption that they committed will continue to be denied justice and effective remedies.
“SERAP urges you to publish the names of all contractors and companies that have been engaged in the power sector since the return of democracy in 1999 to date, details of specific projects and the amounts that have been paid to the contractors and companies, details on the level of implementation of electricity projects and their specific locations across the country.
“SERAP is concerned that to date no contractors or companies who allegedly collected money for electricity projects not executed or poorly executed have been investigated for corruption let alone prosecuted and fined. Senior public officials who apparently served as intermediaries for these contractors and companies continue to escape justice.
“We are concerned that allegations of corruption involving many contractors and companies in the power sector have continued to impair, obstruct and undermine the ability of successive governments to provide Nigerians with access to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply.
“Contractors and companies that allegedly disappeared with public funds meant for electricity projects may also be liable for aiding and abetting the commission of acts of grand corruption.
“SERAP also urges you to refer contractors and companies that allegedly collected hundred percent payment upfront to appropriate anticorruption agencies for further investigation, and where there is relevant admissible evidence, for them to face prosecution.
“Doing this will show your willingness to end a pattern of corruption in the power sector and to improve access of Nigerians to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply. It will also allow citizens to track the level of execution of electricity projects by contractors and companies and reduce impunity for corrupt acts in the sector.
“Failure to publish the names of alleged corrupt contractors and companies in the power sector will undermine the government’s oft-expressed commitment to holistically fight grand corruption and improve access of Nigerians to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply.
“Similarly, failure to take punitive and dissuasive measures would allow corrupt contractors and companies to continue to undermine the rule of law and socio-economic development of the country, restricting access of disadvantaged and marginalized communities to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply.
“SERAP notes that the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party contains requirements of integrity and honesty in economic, financial or commercial activities-in the public and private sectors. It also imposes obligations on the government to ensure that sanctions imposed for corruption on natural and legal persons are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
“We urge you to establish online national database for all contractors and companies, shareholders and others that might have any ownership interests in companies responsible for executing power projects in the country. We also urge you to disclose if there any on-going investigation or prosecution of allegedly corrupt contractors and companies in the electricity sector.
“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on alleged corrupt contractors and companies that have collected money for electricity projects and disappeared with public funds rather than executing the projects.
“By Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.
“The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.
“According to our information, former Nigeria’s Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar blew the whistle on Channels TV when he said, “We collected money from local, state and federal governments and others. Contractors were given some contracts and were paid hundred percent upfront. Up till now, we are not holding the contractors responsible. People have collected money upfront one hundred percent and have disappeared; and have not even done any work.”