The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing was alleged to have said that it does not have records of names of contractors and companies that collected money for electricity projects and failed to executive them.
The ministry, according to Socio Economic Rights and Accountability Projects (SERAP), stated this in its response to a suit seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling the minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), “to provide specific details on the names and whereabouts of the contractors, who collected public funds meant for electricity projects, but disappeared with the money without executing any projects.”
However, in its letter dated January 27, 2019, the ministry said: “We have searched the ministry’s record and the information you applied for is not held by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing (Power Sector).”
The letter signed by Director (Legal Services), Mrs. A.A. Shoetan, on behalf of the minister, read in part: “I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated January 4, 2019, in which you applied for request to disclose details of alleged corrupt contractors and companies that collected money for electricity projects but failed to execute any projects. The request has been handled under the FOI Act.”
Responding to the development, SERAP, in a letter dated February 8, 2019 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said public expectation was that government information, when in the hands of any public institutions and agencies, would be available to the public, as prescribed by the FOI Act.
“The FOI Act should always be used as an authority for disclosing information rather than withholding it.”
“Indiscriminate attempts to limit disclosure of information of public interest such as the details of the names of alleged corrupt contractors and companies that SERAP is seeking, will undermine the government’s expressed commitment to transparency and accountability.
“We believe that the predisposition by all public institutions and agencies, including the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, should be to grant access to public information and not to implicitly deny it. Indeed, disclosure, not secrecy, is the dominant objective of the FOI Act.
“This objective would be defeated if there is public perception that public institutions and agencies attempt to shield information of public interest from disclosure or abdicate statutory responsibilities”.
SERAP reminded the minister of the suit it had filed in “court for remedial action and seeking an order to compel you and your ministry to release the information requested”.
“We urge you to take proactive steps to obtain the information from any other public institution or agency that may be holding the requested information, and to send to us the information without further delay.
It advised the minister not to wait until the court makes it decision to compel you to disclose the requested information.