The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued the Minister of Power, Works and Housing Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) over his alleged “failure to account for the spending on the privatization of the electricity sector”.
The development contained in a statement signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Timothy Adewale on Sunday, follows the organisation’s Freedom of Information request sent earlier to Mr Fashola.
In the request dated May 7, SERAP had asked the minister to provide details of the exact amount of post-privatisation spending on generation companies (GENCOS), distribution companies (DISCOS) and Transmission Company of Nigeria to date, and to explain if such spending came from budgetary allocations or other sources, within a period of 14 days.
But according to Adewale, the case was taken to court last week over the minister’s failure to comply, as it has the right to request the information under contention on the basis of several provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011.
“In the suit number FHC/L/CS/972/18 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, SERAP is now seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling Mr Fashola to provide specific details on the privatization of the electricity sector, the names of all the companies and individuals involved; and to publish widely including on a dedicated website any such information,” the deputy director said.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Ms. Bamisope Adeyanju read in part: “Publishing the information requested and making it widely available to the public would serve the public interest and provide insights relevant to the public debate on the ongoing efforts to prevent and combat a culture of mismanagement of public funds, corruption and impunity of perpetrators.”
“Most of the companies that won the bids had no prior experience in the power sector and little or no capacity at all to manage the sector. The privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) have yielded the country total darkness. The gains of privatization have been lost through alleged corruption, manipulation of rules and disregard to extant laws and lack of transparency in the exercise.”
“To further highlight the seriousness of the situation, several years after the country’s power sector was privatized, millions of Nigerian households particularly the socially and economically vulnerable sectors of the population continue to complain about outrageous bills for electricity not consumed, and poor power supply from distribution firms. Millions of Nigerians continue to be exploited through the use of patently illegal estimated billing by DISCOs. One wonders the essence of the privatization if there has been no corresponding improvement in power for Nigerians.”
“Enforcing the right to truth would allow Nigerians to gain access to information essential to the fight against corruption and provide a form of reparation to victims of grand corruption in the power sector. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment 3 has implied that privatization process should not be detrimental to the effective realization of all human rights, including access to regular electricity supply,” the suit read.