A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), on Monday sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) law request to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, urging her to “urgently provide information about spending of the alleged missing N30tn, which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government in the past four years.”
SERAP’s request followed the disclosure by the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo that over N30tn was missing, stolen, or simply mismanaged under Okonjo-Iweala’s watch.
President Goodluck Jonathan has routinely cited the Freedom Of Information law as one of his administration’s achievements, however, it is common knowledge that FOI requests have gone unanswered.
In its FOI request, SERAP also threatened to “take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel” the minister to comply with the request if “the information is not provided to us within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”
“As a key agency of government, the Ministry of Finance has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s resources and wealth is used solely to fulfill the basic economic and social rights of all Nigerians and achieve the country’s overall socio-economic development. This implies providing strong leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption and to refer to appropriate anticorruption agencies any allegations of corruption in which any agencies of government may be involved or officials of your Ministry may be complicit,” SERAP added.
“SERAP considers this a serious allegation that requires your immediate and urgent clarifications…If true, such allegation will clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anticorruption laws and the country’s international anticorruption obligations and commitments including under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. Any failure or refusal to render account on the missing N30tn will also be clearly inconsistent with the attitude of a government that has repeatedly expressed commitment to the fight against corruption, and in fact signed the Freedom of Information Act.”
In concluding the letter, SERAP reminded Dr. Okonjo-Iweala that the information being requested did 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 peace and concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.”