Obaseki in Water project Scandal.
Court orders Obaseki to release cost documents on Edo Water Storm and other projects …fines Edo State Government for refusal …ruling set to expose hidden corrupt dealings of the Obaseki-administration
The Benin High Court has ordered the Obaseki-led Edo State Government to immediately release documents detailing its spending and project management of the Benin Water Storm project and other associated works to Chief Patrick Eholor, a senior member of Amnesty International and Founder One Foundation.
The ruling, described as a victory for government accountability to the public and anti-corruption efforts, was made in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2011, a law that affords everyone regardless of tribe, age, creed, a right of access to information or records held by public institutions and relevant private entities.
The Presiding Judge, Justice D. I. Okungbowa, adopted the unanimous judgment of an Akure Division of the Court of Appeal in the Case between Alo versus Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly, which expressly stated that the Information Act applies to state governments and the Claimant, Chief Patrick Eholor, is entitled to information applied under the Act 2011.
Chief Patrick Eholor had filed the suit in court after his application for the Edo State Government to release the documents surrounding its management of the project, especially in the area of costs and contract to enable public scrutiny met a brick wall.
The Obaseki-administration gained notoriety for its refusal to honor journalistic and public requests for information, particularly in matters related to the management of funds and project management in light of allegations that the government, held hostage by the excess of Governor Obaseki, had made it a culture to use budgeted projects as pipes for channeling public funds into specially-created accounts used to fund personal and political ambitions of the Governor.
By ordering the release of the documents to Chief Patrick and fining the Edo State Government a sum of 50,000 naira for its initial foot-dragging and deliberate denial of access to the documents, civil society groups in the state have expressed relief that the judiciary if finally waking up to its duty as an organ of checks and balances and the lost hope of the common man.
Going by the ruling of the court, the Edo State Government is mandated to release documents showing areas covered by the project through a copy of the master plan and all such drawings related to the project; the exact dates and firms contracted by the state government vis-à-vis funds released; the present state of the project; a detailed financial record alongside the extent of work done, sources of funding whether it is loans, grants, and the terms of such contract.
Some inside sources within the government have confidentially told this platform that the ruling could expose the corrupt dealings of the Obaseki-administration as the project, on many occasions, has been used as a front to make unlawful withdrawals from the state treasury.
“Why do you think the government has been fighting so hard to block the release of the documents if it has nothing to hide? The truth is that project execution stopped in Edo a long time ago. The Governor was just awarding contracts to some nonexistent companies who channeled the money back to him for his Abuja politics. I don’t think he will obey this ruling because it will expose him,” one of them said