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Appeal on Abacha loot: World Bank seeks more time to give details

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The World Bank has again asked for more time to release details on the

spending of recovered loot by late General Sani Abacha. This followed the

bank's decision to refer “portion of appeal by Socio-Economic Rights and

Accountability Project (SERAP) to the Bank Archives Unit for processing

for public access.”
In a letter dated 8 August 2016 and sent to SERAP, the World Bank said,

“In response to your request under AI4288, we would like to inform you

that we are working on your request as referred to the Archives by the

Access to Information Committee in its decision on the appeal and need

additional time to provide a more comprehensive response. We regret any

inconvenience for this delay.”
This development was disclosed today in a statement by SERAP executive

director Adetokunbo Mumuni. The World Bank's request for more time

followed the appeal SERAP lodged with the Bank on 5 February 2016 on the

ground that the Bank's decision on its initial request did not reveal

“important portions of the information requested on how Abacha loot was

spent.”
This is the second time the World Bank is asking for additional time to

provide SERAP with details of spending of Abacha loot. It would be

recalled that the bank in a letter dated 15 October 2015 and signed by Ann

May of the Access to Information Team said that “In response to your

request under AI3982, we would like to inform you that we are still

considering your request and need additional time to provide you with a

more comprehensive response.”
According to Mumuni, the Bank Access to Information Committee (AIC) in its

Decision on appeal issued in Case number AI3982-A dated 29 April 2016 held

that although the appeal by the organisation was not filed within 60 days

of the Bank's decision as required by its Access to Information Policy,

SERAP appeal nonetheless “contains a request for additional information,

not previously submitted by the requester, and which the Bank has neither

considered nor denied. Accordingly, the AIC refers back to the Archives

Unit this portion of the appeal for processing for public access.”

SERAP said: “The portion of the appeal which the Bank has now referred to

its Archives Unit for public access include information on: evidence and

list of the 23 projects allegedly completed with recovered Abacha loot,

and whether the 23 projects where actually completed; and what became of

the 2 abandoned projects; evidence and location of the 8 health centers

built with recovered Abacha loot reviewed by the World Bank; and evidence

and location of the 18 power projects confirmed by the World Bank.”

“Other aspects of the spending of Abacha loot the Bank referred to its

Archives Unit for processing for public access are: information on: how

the $50mn Abacha loot received before 2005 kept in the special account was

spent; evidence and location of schools which benefited from the Universal

Basic Education (UBE) program in the amount of NGN24.25bn; and evidence

and location of the 13 road projects completed with the recovered Abacha

loot, including the names of the 3 of the largest road and bridge projects

in each geo-political zone.”
The World Bank AIC appeal decision reads in part: “Summary of Decision:

The Access to Information Committee (“AIC') found that the appeal is not

properly before the AIC for consideration. The appeal in this case was

filed 75 calendar days after the Bank's initial decision. Under the Bank

Policy on Access to Information, appeals to the AIC must be filed within

60 calendar days of the Bank's decision.”
“Notwithstanding the above, the AIC found that the appeal contains a

request for additional information, not previously submitted by the

requester, and which the Bank has neither considered nor denied.

Accordingly, the AIC refers back to the Archives Unit this portion of the

appeal for processing for public access.”
“The Decision Facts: On September 21, 2015, the requester submitted a

request (“Request”) for “documents relating to spending of recovered

assets stolen by Late General Sani Abacha and the Bank's role in the

implementation of any projects funded by the recovered assets and any

other on-going repatriation initiatives on Nigeria with which the Bank is

engaged.” On November 25, 2015, the World Bank (“Bank”) responded to the

Request by providing the requester with 11documents.

“On February 8, 2016, the secretariat to the Access to Information

Committee received an application (“Application”) appealing the Bank's

decision. The Application challenges the Bank's decision on both a

“violation of policy” and “public interest” basis. The Application

states, in relevant part, the following: [Intentionally omitted] is

sending this Appeal to the AI Appeals Board against the World Bank

decision dated 25 November 2015 to provide patently insufficient

information on the spending of recovered stolen funds by the late General

Sani Abacha.”
“We consider this a serious violation of the AI Policy, as it amounts to

improper or unreasonable restriction of access to information.[…]Following

receipt of several documents from the World Bank totalling over 700 pages

on the Abacha loot, [intentionally omitted] commenced independent

investigations and verification of some of the information supplied with

appropriate agencies and institutions of government.”

“Findings and Related Decision: In reviewing the Application in accordance

with the AI Policy, the AIC considered: (a) the Request; (b) the

Application; (b) the date of the Bank's initial decision; and (c) the date

when the Application was filed before the AIC. In this case, the Bank's

response was issued on November 25, 2015. The Application was filed with

the AIC on February 8, 2016, i.e., 75 calendar days after the Bank's

initial decision.”
“Under the Bank Policy: Access to Information, July 1, 2015, Catalogue No.

EXC4.01-POL.01 (“AI Policy”), appeals to the AIC 'must be filed (…)

within 60 calendar days of the Bank's decision to deny access to the

requested information' (see AI Policy, at Section III.C.8 (b) i). In view

of this requirement, the Application is not properly before the AIC for

consideration.”
“Notwithstanding the above, the AIC found that the Application contains a

request for additional information, not previously submitted by the

requester, and which the Bank has neither considered nor denied.

Accordingly, the AIC refers back to the Archives Unit this portion of the

Application for processing as a new request for public access.”

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