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).
The judge ordered the government to publish the total amount of money paid to Chinese and local companies and contractors, specific details of the identities of the companies and contractors as well as the implementation of the project.
In December 2019, SERAP filed a lawsuit against Zainab Ahmed, finance minister, over failure to disclose information and specific documents on the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the Abuja CCTV project. Ahmed had disclosed that Nigeria was servicing the loan, adding that she had no explanations on the status of the project. In his judgement, Nwite agreed with SERAP that there was a reasonable cause of action against the government.
“Accounting for the spending of the $460 million Chinese loan is in the public’s interest. It will be inimical for the court to refuse SERAP’s application for judicial review of the government’s action,” he said.
“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 judgement 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.