The World Bank Access to Information Committee has asked for more time to reach a decision on the appeal lodged with it by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) regarding spending of recovered stolen funds by the late General Sani Abacha.
The letter addressed to Olukayode Majekodunmi SERAP deputy director and received yesterday by the organization reads in part: “In response to your appeal under Case Number AI3982-A, this is to inform you that your appeal remains under consideration by the Access to Information Committee in accordance with the World Bank’s Access to Information Policy.”
“The Access to Information Committee makes its best efforts to reach a decision on appeals within 45 working days of receiving an appeal. In this case, the Access to Information Committee needs additional time to reach a decision. We appreciate your patience while the Access to Information Committee considers your appeal.”
It would be recalled that SERAP in the appeal dated 5 February 2016 said that it considered the decision not to reveal important portions of the information requested on how Abacha loot was spent “a serious violation of the AI Policy, as it amounts to improper or unreasonable restriction of access to information.”
The organisation 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.”
The appeal reads in part: “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.”
“SERAP notes that one of the guiding principles of the Policy on Access to Information (AI Policy) is recognizing the right to an appeals process when a request for information in the World Bank’s possession is improperly or unreasonably denied.”
“SERAP argues that there is a strong public interest case here to override the corporate administrative matters, deliberative information or financial information exceptions of the AI Policy if the information being requested falls under one of these exceptions.”
“SERAP believes that it is not harmful for the Bank to disclose specific details of the information requested. SERAP also notes that the sole remedy available to those who prevail in the appeals process is to receive the information requested.”
SERAP therefore requested the Access to Information (AI) Appeals Board to exercise its prerogative and allow disclosure of the following specific information and any feedback from the World Bank Evaluation Team on the issues below:
Evidence and list of the 23 projects allegedly completed with recovered Abacha loot, and whether the 26 projects where actually completed; and what became of the 2 abandoned projects; Evidence and location of the 8 health centers built with recovered Abacha loot reviewed by the World Bank; Evidence and location of the 18 power projects confirmed by the World Bank; How the $50mn Abacha loot received before 2005 kept in the special account was spent; Evidence and location of schools which benefited from the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program in the amount of NGN24.25bn and Evidence and location of the 13 road projects completed with the recovered Abacha loot, including the names of the 3 of the largest road and bridge projects in each geo-political zone.