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Nondisclosure of Chinese loans on rail projects lands Minister in Court

Considering the endless access to Chinese loans by the Federal Government to fund railway schemes which had been skewed to only Lagos-Western Nigeria to North Central axis since the beginning of the current administration, leading non-governmental organisation, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), had relied on the express provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to seek details of the total sum so far.
However, after several efforts plus a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Minister of Transportation on March 21, 2019, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, asking him to give details of the loans, contracts and agreements signed between the governments and or agencies of Nigeria and China on the construction of railways in Nigeria which had lapsed the provided seven days deadline, SCJ has gone to court.
Otherwise, SCJ has filed a legal application to the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking judicial interpretation of the Minister’s act in refusing to furnish it with the needed disclosures.
In a statement made available to Business Hilights in Abuja, SCJ said “After the expiration of the seven days provided by the FOI Act for the Minster to respond, CSJ has now filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, in Suit Number: FHC/ABJ/CS/441/2019 – Centre for Social Justice (LTD/GTE) vs the Minister of Transport”. Key prayers of the group include but not limited to the declaration “that denying the applicant access to information on the contracts constitutes an infringement of the applicant’s right guaranteed and protected by Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011”.
“A declaration that denying the applicant access to information on the contracts/agreements signed between the governments and or agencies of Nigeria and China for loans related to the construction of railways in Nigeria without explanation constitutes an infringement of the applicant’s right guaranteed and protected by Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
SCJ is also seeking the Federal High Court to compel the respondent to grant it access to information on the contracts signed by the governments and another declaration that the continued refusal of the respondent to grant to the applicant access to information on the contracts/agreements signed between the governments and or agencies of Nigeria and China for loans related to the construction of railways in Nigeria despite applicant’s demand violates Section 4 of the FOI Act, 2011.
“A declaration that the continued refusal of the respondent to grant access to the applicant information on the contracts/agreements signed between the governments and or agencies of Nigeria and China for loans related to the construction of railways in Nigeria without explanation constitutes an infringement of the applicant’s right guaranteed and protected by Section 48 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
Though efforts to reach the Minister or his aide failed Monday, the suit is yet to get hearing date.