Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari of the Federal High Court in Lagos has granted leave to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to apply for an order of mandamus to compel the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu and the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh to account for the spending of trillions of naira on water projects between 1999 and 2016.

Justice Shagari granted the permission after listening to an exparte application filed by SERAP’s counsel, Ms Bamisope Adeyanju, seeking explanation from the two ministers why Nigeria’s water and sanitation infrastructure have continued to deteriorate despite government’s claim of spending trillions of naira of budgetary allocations to the sector since the return of democracy in 1999.

The judge held in her ruling on the application, “I have looked at the papers filed by SERAP and I agree that leave ought to be granted in this case to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus, in the interest of justice.”

The Court also ruled that the Defendants be put on notice and adjourned the matter to June 29 for mention.

The suit number FHC/L/CS/632/18 filed in April this year followed a Freedom of Information requests made by SERAP to Adamu and Ogbeh.

However, according to SERAP, Ogbeh has so far failed to respond to the FOI request.

The suit read in part: “The interest of the public in making this information released is far greater that any other interest Mr Adamu and Mr Ogbeh may be trying to preserve, considering the grievous consequences associated with lack of access to clean and potable water and its impact on other sectors of the economy and on the realisation of other human rights.

“Many toilets in public offices are out of order because of lack of water while millions of Nigerians remain desperate for water in their homes, often resorting to contaminated sources and drilling their own boreholes that can become easily mixed with sewage, with negative environmental impacts, and devastating for people’s health.

“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.

SERAP is therefore seeking a declaration that the failure of the 1st Respondent to urgently compile and furnish the Applicant with information on the details of its expenditure and budgetary spending on specific water and sanitation projects, with details of their locations across the country, for the years covering: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010 (1999-2010); as well as details of allocations to the 36 states of the federation, for the period is unlawful as it contradicts and is in conflict with the obligations of the 1st Respondent under the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

An order of mandamus was therefore granted compelling the first Respondent to urgently compile and furnish the Applicant with information, including wide publication on a dedicated website, on the details of its expenditure and budgetary spending on specific water and sanitation projects, with details of their locations across the country, as well as details of allocations to the 36 states of the federation, for the period.