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SERAP drags Fashola to court, seeks interpretation of spending on power firms

Global best practices on privatization means no more government involvements in terms of expenses either for or on behalf of new owners of privatized government enterprises.

However, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has observed that this is not so generation companies (GENCOS), distribution companies (DISCOS) and Transmission Company of Nigeria as the federal government has been sinking tax payers money into the companies till date.

Accordingly, the group has sued the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, over “failure to account for the spending on the privatisation of the electricity sector and the exact amount of post-privatisation spending the new companies who had on acceptance of their bids, signed to foot all bills in the process of developing the sector.

Part of SERAP payers including asking the former Lagos state governor to explain “if such spending came from budgetary allocations or other sources.”

In a suit filed before a Lagos Federal High Court, SERAP is 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 privatisation 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.”

Business Hilights gathered that action was sequel to SERAP’s Freedom of Information request dated May 7 to Mr. Fashola giving him 14 days to provide “information on the status of implementation of the 25-year national energy development plan, and whether the Code of Ethics of the privatisation process which bars staff of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and members of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) from buying shares in companies being privatised were deliberately flouted.”

SERAP’s suit filed on its behalf by 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 privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), have yielded the country total darkness. The gains of privatisation 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 privatised, 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 privatisation 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 privatisation process should not be detrimental to the effective realisation of all human rights, including access to regular electricity supply.”

SERAP is therefore seeking among other reliefs, a  declaration that the failure of the respondent to furnish the applicant with information on specific details on the spending on the privatisation of the electricity sector, the exact amount of post-privatisation spending to date and the names of all the companies and individuals involved; as well as explain if such spending came from budgetary allocations or other sources is unlawful as it contradicts and in conflict with the obligations of the Respondent under the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

Efforts to get reactions from the Minister failed as press time.