The Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, has said he has no legal obligation to account for how the states of the federation spent the N388.3bn Paris Club loan refund released to them.
He argued that he could not be compelled to disclose such information because it was “protected by professional privilege, and therefore confidential.”
The accountant-general likened the relationship between him and the states to that between a bank and its customers, saying he could not be compelled to publish same.
This was his response to a suit by a human rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, seeking to compel him to disclose and publish how the N388.3bn Paris Club loan refund was spent by the states.
SERAP had said it filed the suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos following reported embezzlement or diversion of the funds, which were meant to be used for the payment of workers’ salaries and pension arrears.
Justice Muslim Hassan had in June granted SERAP’s application seeking a judicial review of the spending of the N388.3bn.
The judge held that it was important for the authorities “to come and tell us how they spent our money.”
But in response to the suit, the Accountant-General of the Federation contended that SERAP’s move against him was misconceived.
He said he did not have the information and even if he had it he could not be compelled to disclose same.
He said, “The relationship between the Accountant-General and the 35 states is professional and confidential. It is a fiduciary one akin to that between a bank and its customer and allied professionals.
“On that score, record of the spending of N388.304bn London Paris Club loan refund by the 35 states is exempted from publication, assuming the Federal Government has the information sought by SERAP.
“The Accountant-General does not have custody or possession of the information or record relating to the spending of N388.304bn London Paris Club loan refund by 35 states which the government gave them.
“The Accountant-General did not release the funds to the states. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Accountant-General argues that assuming we have the information sought, the government is not obliged to comply with the request.”