Alleging infringement on the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has continued to seek a legal redress over some water projects awarded by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Specifically, SERAP, which is before a Federal High Court, Lagos, is among others asking that the court invoke FOI and compel Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources, to disclose government’s spending on water, locations of specific projects, in view of the high volume of the information involved.
SERAP also named Chief Audu Ogbe, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, as defendant in the suit.
SERAP had hinged the cause for the suit following complaints of lack of portable water and sharp practices by some contractors engaged by the government on water projects.
“We are concerned that millions of Nigerians do not have access to clean and potable water and adequate sanitation. There is no water to show for the huge budgetary allocations and purported spending and investment in the sector since the return of democracy in 1999. Successive governments have failed to improve affordability of water for millions of low-income Nigerians, thereby denying them access to water.
“Contractors handling water projects are reportedly engaging in schemes like the deliberate use of substandard pipes, among others, to make profit, leading to loss of water. This dearth of water also affects sanitation. The large number of broken down water facilities across the country has hindered effective water supply to the citizens.
“We urge you to use your leadership position to provide within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter detailed information on the spending on specific water and sanitation projects and their locations carried out by the Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development for the following years: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (1999-2016); as well as details of allocations to the 36 states of the federation.”
At the last hearing of the matter, the government through the Ministry of Water Resources had asked the court for more time within which to compile and furnish it with information on the spending.
Adamu, who denied the allegation of lack of portable water, said: “It is not true that millions of Nigerians are drinking water from contaminated sources. It is not the duties of the Ministry of Water Resources alone to provide drinking water for the citizens.”
The Ministry of Water Resources stated this in court in its reply to the Freedom of Information suit number FHC/L/CS/632/18 filed in April by SERAP requesting Mr. Adamu and Mr. Audu Ogbeh, to “explain why millions of Nigerians have to resort to drinking water from contaminated sources with deadly health consequences, despite the authorities claiming to have spent trillions of naira of budgetary allocations on the sector since 1999.”
However, while Mr. Adamu has promised to render account on spending on water projects and is now asking the court for more time to do so, Mr Ogbeh has reportedly failed, refused and/or neglected to respond to SERAP’s request and has not filed any paper in court to counter the suit filed by the organisation.
But Mr Adamu, through a counter-affidavit dated September 7, 2018 and sworn to by Kwushue Abolaji, Legal Officer at the Ministry of Water Resources, said: “The delay in furnishing SERAP with the requested information is not deliberate. The information will soon be ready, and it will be forwarded to SERAP without further delay. We humbly urge the court to grant us more time within which to do this.”
Source: Daily Independence