A federal high court in Abuja has ordered the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to account for the spending of a $460 million Chinese loan to fund the “failed” Abuja closed-circuit television (CCTV) project.
Emeka Nwite, the judge, gave the order while delivering judgement in the freedom of information suit ‘FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019’ brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
A statement on Sunday by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said the court also ordered the government to “publish the total amount of money paid to Chinese and local companies and contractors and specific details of the names of the companies and contractors and status of the implementation of the project.”
SERAP said the suit followed the disclosure in 2019 by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, that “Nigeria was servicing the loan,” adding that she had “no explanations on the status of the project.”
“We are servicing the loan. I have no information on the status of the CCTV project,” she was quoted to have said.
In his judgment, Justice Nwite agreed with SERAP that “there is a reasonable cause of action against the government. Accounting for the spending of the $460m Chinese loan is in the interest of the public. It will be inimical for the court to refuse SERAP’s application for judicial review of the government’s action.”
“The Minister of Finance is in charge of the finances of the country and cannot by any stretch of imagination be oblivious of the amount of money paid to the contractors for the Abuja CCTV contract and the money meant for the construction of the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau.”
The judge ordered the government to provide the “details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion paid for the failed contract meant to construct the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau was part of another loan obtained from China”.
Nwite granted an order of mandamus compelling the federal government through the minister of finance, “to provide and make available to SERAP information on the total amount of money paid to contractors, with specific details of names of companies local contractors involved, from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China by the Federal Government of Nigeria to fund the failed Abuja CCTV contract”.
The judgment reads: “An order of mandamus is hereby made directing and compelling the government (through the Minister of Finance) to provide the details of the local companies and Chinese contractors that have received funds from the $460 million loan for the finance of the Abuja CCTV contract as well as details of the status of implementation of the project.
“An order of mandamus is hereby made directing and compelling the government (through the Minister of Finance) to provide the details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion mobilisation fee reportedly paid to the contractors for the construction of the Headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau in Abuja was part of another loan from China.”