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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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