The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an appeal over the decision of the World Bank to provide insufficient information on how the government of Nigeria spent the recovered stolen funds by the late General Sani Abacha.
In the appeal by SERAP to the Access to Information (AI) Appeals Board on the bank’s decision dated November 25, 2015, it requested the board to exercise its prerogative and allow disclosure of specific information and any feedback from the World Bank Evaluation Team on the several issues, including the “evidence and list of the 23 projects allegedly completed with recovered Abacha loot, and whether the projects were actually completed; and what became of the two abandoned projects.”
In a statement by SERAP Deputy Executive Director, Olukayode Majekodunmi, the body complained that the World Bank failed to disclose sufficient information on the spending of recovered stolen funds by the government. To this end, it urged the AIAB to prevail on the bank to provide evidence and the location of the eight health centres built with recovered Abacha loot reviewed by the World Bank as well as the evidence and location of the 18 power projects confirmed by the World Bank. SERAP also urged the Appeal Board to direct the bank to state “how the $50 million Abacha loot received before 2005 kept in the special account was spent,” and “evidence and location of schools which benefited from the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme in the amount of N24.25 billion.”
It also prayed the Appeal Board to request for “evidence and location of the 13 road projects completed with the recovered Abacha loot, including the names of three of the largest road and bridge projects in each geo-political zone” as claimed by the bank. SERAP noted it “considered the decision of the World Bank a serious violation of the AI Policy, as it amounts to improper or unreasonable restriction of access to information.”
In the appeal, dated February 5, 2016, and signed by SERAP deputy executive director, it said: “Following receipt of several documents from the World Bank totalling over 700 pages on the Abacha loot, SERAP commenced independent investigations and verification of some of the information supplied with appropriate agencies and institutions of government. “SERAP is concerned that the World Bank failed and/or neglected to provide several portions of the information requested on the spending of recovered Abacha loot managed by the bank.” It noted that one of the guiding principles of the Policy on Access to Information (AI Policy) was recognizing the right to an appeals process when a request for information in the World Bank’s possession was improperly or unreasonably denied.