A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has sued the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), for failing to account for the spending on the privatisation of the electricity sector and the exact amount of post-privatisation spending on generation companies (GENCOS), distribution companies (DISCOS) and Transmission Company of Nigeria to date.
The group also wants the minister to explain if the spending came from budgetary allocations or other sources.
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/972/18 filed last week at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP is seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing or compelling 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.
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information request dated May 7, 2018, to the minister 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.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Ms. 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) has 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 United Nations 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 has the right to request the information under contention on the basis of several provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2011. By Section (1) of the FoI Act, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on post-privatisation spending by the federal government and accounts of spending on the private entities such as Gencos and Discos.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.