Header Ads


Rivers flyovers’ multi-billion Naira expenditure brought to court

 By Menidin Egbo

 Apparent tendency to defy the Freedom of Information Act or circumvent the law by public agencies, institutions and state functionaries has put to question the goal of public service as understood by mostly state sector service providers in Nigeria since enactment of the (FOI) Act in 2011. This is obviously one major reason that led to a legal action by anti-corruption groups against the Rivers State government over the disclosure of contractual and expenditure information concerning ongoing flyover projects in Greater Port Harcourt city. 

Image result for governor wike pictures
Gov Wike

 Led by Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), the Rivers State branch of the Anti- Corruption Network (RIV-AcoNET), representing several citizens groups who are demanding for governance transparency and accountability, have filed a law suit against the Rivers government. The action by the groups was in request for public disclosure of contracts and expenditure information over ongoing flyover projects in the state. The government has embarked on completion of about 36.8 billion Naira flyovers and road construction projects in the state.

Before instituting the case (NO PHC18/74/2020) against the State, the groups had earlier applied to the office of the state Accountant General, requesting for the government fiscal year report for 2018 and 2019. The ongoing suit was filed on February 18th, 2020 by Sabestain Kpalap and Arochukwu Ogbonna as plaintiffs, on behalf of the Network.

Published on February 4, 2021 in an online newsletter, Nigeria Social Action Update, a statement by Social Action, captioned: “Freedom Of Information (FOI): Requesting Public Finance Accountability In Rivers State”, indicated that the state government had failed to make available to the groups some requested public information concerning state’s expenditure performance over ongoing projects.

According to the statement:  “after several attempts by the Network to get the requested documents were ignored by the different government agencies”, the civil society groups resolved to take the matter to a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, with “prayers for the court to mandate the government to make available the requested documents”. 

The citizens groups in the state had additionally made a request to the state Bureau of Public Procurements for documents on state procurements that were made within the period. The Network’s FOI-based request effort was to no avail, even as the requests were made under provisions of the FOI Act (2011) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The general failure of state functionaries to honour requests made under provisions of the FOI Act (2011), has led proactive civil groups to resort to court action, hoping to sanitize the public service domain by instilling a sense of responsibility for good governance. Several court cases abound across the length and breadth of the federation over non-compliance with the FOI Act in respect of satisfying citizens’ request for information disclosure.

In 2019 the Rivers state government began construction of three flyovers worth N21 billion, and later, additional work on two more flyovers and road networks costing an estimated N15.8 billion were commenced. Construction of five flyovers by the state government are being carried out at Rebisi (Garrison), Rumuogba (Artillery), Okoro-Nu-Odo (Rumuokoro), Rumuola, and GRA (Aba Road) junctions, spreading across Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor council areas of the state.

In September 2020, the state governor, Chief Barrister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, in a statement issued by the state Commissioner of Information and Communications, Mr. Paulinus Nsirim, stated that one of the flyovers would be completed in no time as the “administration was passionate about the development of the state”. The statement added that government is committed to “judiciously utilise scarce resources to develop the state”.

The government’s statement avowedly boasted about the state commitment to “judiciously” expend development resources, especially as related to often questionable use of public funds generally believed to be spent under suspicious projects. The government proudly stated that:

“It is not the amount of resources you get that determines the kind of projects you carry out; rather, it is your commitment and passion to develop the people.

“If you have huge resources and you don’t have the passion and commitment, then the resources cannot be utilised for the good of the people.

“If you have the passion and commitment as we do, then, even the little resources that we have will be judiciously used for the development of our state”.

Civil society groups, however, believe that good governance “passion and commitment” must also be demonstrated by clear commitment to legal compliance, in this case, as related to provisions for disclosure of public expenditures run by government as provide for by the FOI Act.

The focus of the FOI Act (2011) was obviously meant to strengthen public accountability and transparency under governance good practice. The law requires it as obligation for state officials to “make public records and information more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest …” and for “related matters”.




No comments