Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), at the weekend urged the World Bank President Mr. David Malpass “to exercise the Bank’s prerogative to release archival records and documents relating to spending on all approved funds to improve access to electricity in Nigeria between 1999 and 2020.”
SERAP wants “to identify and name any executed projects, and Nigerian officials, ministries, departments and agencies involved in the execution of such projects.”
Last week World Bank Board of Directors approved $500m “to help boost access to electricity in Nigeria and improve the performance of the electricity distribution companies in the country.”
But in the application dated 6 February 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization urged the Bank to “explain the rationale for the approval of $500m to implement electricity projects in the country; despite reports of widespread and systemic corruption in the sector; and the failure of the authorities to enforce a court judgment; ordering the release of details of payments to allegedly corrupt electricity contractors who failed to execute any projects.”
SERAP said: “This application is brought pursuant to the World Bank’s Access to Information Policy; which aims to maximize access to information and promote the public good.
“There is public interest in Nigerians knowing about the Bank’s supervisory role; and specifically its involvement in the implementation of electricity projects, which it has so far funded.”
According to SERAP, “The $500m is part of the over one billion dollars available to Nigeria under the project titled: Nigeria Distribution Sector Recovery Program.
“We would be grateful for details of any transparency and accountability mechanisms; under the agreement for the release of funds; including whether there is any provision that would allow Nigerians and civil society to monitor the spending of the money by the government; its agencies; and electricity distribution companies.”
The letter copied to Shubham Chaudhuri, World Banks Country Director for Nigeria, read in part: “SERAP believes that releasing the information and documents would enable Nigerians; and civil society to meaningfully engage in the implementation of electricity projects funded by the Bank; contribute to the greater public good; and enhance the Bank’s oft-stated commitment to transparency and accountability.
“The Bank also reportedly approved a $750 million loan for Nigeria’s electricity sector in June 2020 to cut tariff shortfalls; protect the poor from price adjustments, and increase power supply to the grid. As such, the World Bank is not a neutral party in this matter.
“SERAP is seriously concerned that the funds approved by the Bank are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. The World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that the Nigerian authorities and their agencies are transparent and accountable to Nigerians; in how they spend the approved funds for electricity projects in the country; and to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.
“SERAP also believes that the release of the requested information and documents is of paramount importance to the public interest in preserving the legitimacy; credibility; and relevance of the Bank as a leading international development institution. The Bank ought 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 regular and uninterrupted electricity supply to Nigerians as a fundamental human right.”