A Lagos based human rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), on Monday sent what it termed an access to information request to the President of World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim wherein it charged him to “exercise the Bank’s prerogative to release documents relating to spending of recovered assets stolen by Late Nigerian military dictator, General Sani Abacha.
Besides, the group equally want the World Bank President to disclose information about the Bank’s role in the implementation of any projects funded by the recovered assets and any other on-going repatriation initiatives on Nigeria with which the Bank is engaged.
The group in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni argued that, “Should the Bank fail or refuse to release the documents as requested, SERAP would file an appeal to the Secretariat of the Bank’s Access to Information Committee to challenge any such decision, and if it becomes necessary, to the Access to Information Appeals Board.
“This application is brought pursuant to the World Bank’s Access to Information Policy (The Policy), approved by the Board on June 30 2015. SERAP notes that one of the Policy’s guiding principles is to maximise access to information.
“There is also clear public interest in Nigerians knowing about the Bank’s supervisory role and specifically its involvement in the implementation of projects on which repatriated funds were spent.
“The World Bank has been involved in overseeing the transfer, disbursement, spending of recovered funds from General Abacha, and other similar initiatives to repatriate stolen funds to Nigeria. As such, the World Bank is not a neutral party in this matter.
“SERAP believes that releasing the documents would enable civil society to meaningfully engage in the management and supervision of repatriated funds, contribute to the greater public good, and enhance transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s resources.
“SERAP also believes that the release of the requested documents is of paramount importance to the public interest in preserving the legitimacy, credibility and relevance of the World Bank as a leading international development institution. Indeed, the Bank need to lead by example in issues such as transparency and public disclosure raised in this request.
“The information is also being sought to improve the ongoing fight against corruption in the country and the provision of essential public services.
“SERAP argues that the information requested is not affected by the “deliberative” “corporate administrative matters” or “security and safety” exceptions under the Policy. The information requested is crucially required for Nigerians to know how the recovered funds have so far been spent and to know and monitor how the funds (which are public money and resources) are being used.
“SERAP’s recent report, Deterring Kleptocracy: Finding Nigeria’s Re-Stolen Billions and Repatriating Looted Assets reveals that recovered funds may have been re-stolen or mismanaged. This raises specific questions of public interest, to which the World Bank can provide some answers.”
The group consequently ask the World Bank to, “Disclose and release documents relating to spending of recovered assets stolen by Late General Sani Abacha, including copies of supervision reports, periodic reviews and other appropriate reports on the Bank’s role in the spending and disbursement of the funds as well as specific projects on which the funds were spent.
“Disclose implementation status and results and completion reports on the projects on which Abacha recovered funds were spent.
“Disclose information on the level of involvement of World Bank in the repatriation of Abacha’s stolen funds and other similar funds
“Disclose information on repatriation agreements and the mechanisms the Bank is putting in place to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of repatriated funds.”