SERAP writes finance minister, demands details of failed CCTV projects

FOLLOWING the public outcry on the scandal trailing the failed Abuja Circuit Closed Television (CCTV) camera project and the unanswered questions on the loan from China to finance it, the Federal Ministry of Finance is being pressured to release all details on Chinese loans from 1999 to 2015 and the projects for which they were sourced.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project  (SERAP), on Sunday, said it was premising its demands on the Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees the release of such information to the public.

In a statement on Sunday, SERAP, through its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, is also demanding that names of who got what among the local contractors should be made public and those who had questionably conducted themselves be referred to the anti-graft agencies.

In the request to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, she was asked to “urgently provide information on the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the apparently failed Abuja CCTV contract, the loan which  the Federal Government has continued to re-pay.”

SERAP also urged her to “disclose specific details of local contractors, if any, that have received funds from the loan for the CCTV contract, reportedly awarded to China’s ZTE Corporation, as well as the implementation status of the project.”

The advocacy group is equally demanding a “disclosure of details of repayment for other Chinese loans for allegedly failed projects between 1999 and 2015, the status of any such projects and details of local and Chinese contractors involved in the projects.

“We urge you to clarify if the N1.5 billion paid in 2010 for another apparently failed contract to construct the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau is part of another Chinese loan,” it demanded.

In the FoI request dated October 25, 2019, the group said: “We are concerned that Nigerians are being made to pay for the Chinese loans for apparently failed projects and for which they have not benefited in any way, shape or form.

“Transparency in the spending of Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services and the general public interests.

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“Servicing Chinese loans for failed projects is double jeopardy for Nigerians — they can neither see nor benefit from the projects; yet, they are made to pay both the loans and the accrued interests.

“The loans should never have been obtained in the first place, as successive governments should have drawn funds from the over $670 million (N241.2 billion) budgeted annually as security votes, but which remain synonymous with official corruption and unaccounted for.”

The organisation expressed “concern that the $460 million loan got for the failed Abuja CCTV project and the N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, which may be part of another Chinese loan, may have been mismanaged or stolen, and in any case, remain unaccounted for.”

According to the FOI request, SERAP said “as trustee of public funds, SERAP contends that your ministry has a legal duty to disclose details of spending on the $460 million Abuja CCTV project and N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so. Any failure or refusal to provide the information will also be clearly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the FoI Act.

“If the allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the execution of projects for which loans have been obtained from China are true, such allegations will clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anti-corruption laws and the country’s international anti-corruption obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.

“The facts relating to these serious allegations require your immediate and urgent disclosure and clarifications…

“We would like you to clarify if the N1.5 billion mobilisation fee reportedly paid in September 2010 to contractors for the construction of the headquarters of the CCB in Abuja is part of another loan obtained from China.”

“We are concerned that the CCB building project is still in foundation level several years after payment of N1.5 billion of the total contract fee of N3.5 billion. However, the contract was reportedly reviewed in October 2012 from N3.5 billion to N8.7 billion, with the contract agreement signed on February 5, 2013.

“SERAP notes that the consequences of corruption are felt by citizens on a daily basis. Corruption exposes them to additional costs to pay for health, education and administrative services.

“Another consequence of corruption is the growing inequality in the country, where the privileged few have access to all public resources, while the vast majority of citizens are deprived of access to public goods and services.

“Also, corruption undermines economic development of the country, trapping the majority of Nigerians in poverty and depriving them of employment opportunities.”

It asked that the requested information be provided within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of the letter.

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