HEDA tasks Solicitor General on 23 high profile corruption cases~NEWSEXTRA - NEWS EXTRA ONLINE

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Sunday, 1 March 2020

HEDA tasks Solicitor General on 23 high profile corruption cases~NEWSEXTRA






 The Solicitor General of the Federation has been
asked to provide information to the public on about 23 high profile
cases of corruption transferred by the Special Presidential
Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property to the office of
the Solicitor General of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary,
Ministry of Justice. The cases were transferred in August last year
through a presidential directive.

Invoking the Freedom of Information Act, the Human and Environmental
Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) in a petition signed by its
Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, addressed to the Solicitor General, Mr.
Tayo Apata (SAN), said they were transferred but the public have been
kept in the dark as to their status. In the request, HEDA gave a
seven-day notice to the Solicitor General in accordance with the
provision of the FOI Act.

HEDA said its request was informed by suspension of Okoi Obono Obla as
the Chairman, Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery
of Public Property.

There were media reports that President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the
panel which was to investigate specifically mandated cases of
corruption, abuse of office and similar offences by public officers.
Buhari had ordered the transfer of responsibilities to the Solicitor
General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Justice
to continue with all outstanding investigations and other activities of
the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public
Property.

"Since the transfer of these high profile cases, nothing appears to have
been done. HEDA has been watching with keen interests. Nigerians have
been waiting since the transfer of the cases but nothing has been done.
It is important to know what has happened to these crucial cases" Suraju
said.

HEDA stated in the request based on the Freedom of Information Act,
2011. Section 1 of the Act states that notwithstanding anything
contained in any other Act, law or regulation, the right of any person
to access or request information, whether or not contained in any
written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public
official, agency or institution howsoever described, is established.

The Freedom of Information Act in Section 1(2) also states that an
applicant need not demonstrate any specific interest in the information
being applied for. Section 2 provides that a public institution shall
ensure that its records and keeps its information about all its
activities, operations and businesses. And Section 3 provides that an
application for access to a record or information shall be made in
accordance with Section 1 of the Act"

HEDA said it is in possession of a letter dated August 29 2019 from the
Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public
Property to the Solicitor General of the Federation with reference
number, SGF/PS/SPIP1733, titled, "RE: REPORT ON ALL PROSECUTION AND
COURT PROCESSES" The group said the letter details a response from the
Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public
Property to a letter from the Solicitor General of the Federation dated
the August 15. It said the enclosure details the lists of the cases that
were under investigation and prosecution by the Special Presidential
Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property.

Citing media reports, HEDA said the said transfer by Special
Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property was
effected sometime in August 2019 but that five months after the transfer
of the cases to the office of the Solicitor General of the Federation,
the public has been left in the dark on the progress report of the
cases.

HEDA said keeping sealed lips on the critical corruption cases might
suggest that the cases have been swept under the carpet. And in the bid
to strengthening the course of accountability and transparency in the
civil service, we strongly believe this information will aid our public
inclusiveness in the fight of corruption by the Government.

Section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act provides that any applicant
who has been denied access to information or a part thereof, may apply
to the court for a review of the matter within 30 days after which the
public institution denies or is deemed to have denied the application,
or within such further time as the court may either before or after the
expiration of the 30 days fix or allow.

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