President Muhammadu Buhari has been dragged to court over his failure to publish the names of those indicted in the alleged misappropriation of over six trillion Naira in the running of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
In the suit before the Federal High Court Abuja, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged Justice Binta Nyako to compel President Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN, to bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible for the alleged missing funds and to fully recover any stolen public funds.
Naija News understands that the said fund was stolen between 2000 and 2019, as documented in the recent Forensic Audit Report on NDDC.
Justice Nyako is expected to attend to the suit with the number FHC/ABJ/CS/1360/2021 on November 29, 2021.
SERAP had argued in the suit that it is in the public interest to promptly publish the names of those involved in the audit report and to ensure that they face prosecution, as appropriate.
According to SERAP, “The public interest in publishing the names of those indicted by the audit report outweighs any considerations to withhold the information, as there would be no prejudice against those whose names are published as long as the information is appropriately framed and truthful.”
The rights group is also arguing that “the Buhari administration has legal obligations under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power, and article 26 of the UN Convention against Corruption to ensure effective prosecution of allegations of corruption.”
SERAP stressed that the audit report raises prima facie evidence of grand corruption and its staggering effects in the Niger Delta.
The group claims that Nigerians have the right to know the names of those indicted and other details in the report, as guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Freedom of Information Act.
It insisted that making public the report and the names of those indicted would remove the possibility of obstruction of justice, and provide insights relevant to the public debate on the ongoing efforts to combat grand corruption and the longstanding impunity of perpetrators in the country.
Naija News understands SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to “widely publish and make available to Nigerians the Forensic Audit Report on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) submitted to him on September 2, 2021.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi noted that enlisting names of the indicted persons will help in combating the corruption epidemic in the NDDC.
The suit reads further that “according to public interest test, even if the government demonstrates that the publication of the names of public officials would substantially harm a legitimate interest, it is nevertheless obliged to disclose the requested information if, as it is the case here, the public interest in disclosure is sufficient enough to overweigh any perceived harm.”
“The missing N6 trillion and over 13,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta have churtve impact on the human rights of Nigerians, undermining their access to basic public goods and services, such as education, healthcare, and regular and uninterrupted electricity supply.”
“Public schools have been left to crumble and wither away, and health care facilities in several parts of the region lack even the most basic of amenities.”