AN Abuja Federal High Court has ordered the Federal Government to provide details on how a $460 million Chinese loan was used to fund the failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project.
A statement by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday, May 21, said the court presided by Justice Emeka Nwite made the order in a judgment on Monday, May 15.
Details of the judgment were obtained in a Freedom of Information (FOI) suit filed by SERAP.
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed and the Minister of Police Affairs Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi
Justice Nwite ordered that the government must publish the total amount of money paid to Chinese and local companies and contractors, precise details of the identities of the companies and contractors, and the status of the implementation of the project.
According to the statement, the suit followed comments made by Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed, concerning the CCTV project in 2019. The minister said: “We are servicing the loan, but on the project, we will have to ask the FCT Authority because the project was deployed in the FCTA. I have no information on the status of the CCTV.”
The CCTV contract was reportedly awarded to a Chinese firm in 2010 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration after then Minister of Finance Olusegun Aganga led a delegation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Beijing, China.
The project was, reportedly, to be funded from a $600 million financing portfolio secured as a soft credit loan.
However, the project has failed to materialise and serious concerns have been raised over the matter by Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and Nigerians.
Delivering judgment on the case, Justice Nwite agreed that “there is 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 also held that “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”.
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”.
Justice 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 further read: “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.”