A lawsuit has been filed against President Bola Ahmed Tinubu over his government’s failure to probe the allegations that over US$15 billion oil revenues and N200 billion budgeted to repair the refineries in Nigeria are missing and unaccounted for between 2020 and 2021.
These allegations are contained in the 2021 report of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
In suit number FHC/L/CS/2334/2023 filed on Friday by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) at the Federal High Court in Lagos, an order of mandamus is sought to direct and compel the President to probe the allegations that US$15bn of oil revenue, and N200bn budgeted to repair and maintain the refineries in Nigeria are missing and unaccounted for.
SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel President Tinubu to direct appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe allegations of corruption involving the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPDC) and State Owned Enterprises (SOE).”
SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel President Tinubu to use any recovered proceeds of corruption to enhance the well-being of Nigerians.”
In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations. Granting the reliefs sought would end the impunity of perpetrators and ensure justice for victims of corruption.”
The body also argues that “The allegations of corruption documented by NEITI undermine economic development of the country, trap the majority of Nigerians in poverty and deprive them of opportunities.”
According to SERAP, “Unless the President is directed and compelled to get to the bottom of these damning revelations, suspected perpetrators would continue to enjoy impunity for their crimes and enjoy the fruits of their crimes.
“Many years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending of oil revenues and impunity of perpetrators have undermined public trust and confidence in governments at all levels.
“The findings by NEITI suggest a grave violation of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], national anticorruption laws, and the country’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare, Andrew Nwankwo, and Ms Valentina Adegoke, read in part: “The Tinubu government has a constitutional duty to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the country’s oil wealth.
“SERAP is seeking an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to put in place mechanisms for accountability and transparency in the oil sector.
“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution imposes clear responsibility on the government to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on the government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.
“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, the government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’
“Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’
“Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on the government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote transparent administration of public affairs.
“The UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption obligate the government to effectively prevent and investigate the plundering of the country’s wealth and natural resources and hold public officials and non-state actors to account for any violations.
“Specifically, article 26 of the UN convention requires the government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ including criminal and non-criminal sanctions, in cases of grand corruption.
“Article 26 complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that sanctions must take into account the gravity of the corruption allegations.
“Nigeria is also a participating state of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which aims to foster greater governmental accountability for the use of natural resource wealth through the creation of a set of international norms on revenue transparency.
“EITI also aims to tackle corruption, poverty and conflict associated with natural resource wealth. Nigeria has the obligations to implement the EITI Standard, which sets out the transparency norms with which participating States including Nigeria must comply.
“According to the 2021 report by NEITI, government agencies including the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NNPC) and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPDC) failed to remit $13.591 million and $8.251 billion to the public treasury.
“The NNPC and NPDC failed to remit over 70% of these public funds. NEITI wants both the NNPC and NPDC to be investigated, and for the missing public funds to be fully recovered.
“The report also shows that in 2021, the State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and its subsidiaries (the NNPC Group) reportedly spent US$ 6.931 billion on behalf of the Federal Government but without appropriation by the National Assembly. The money may be missing.
“The NNPC also reportedly obtained a loan of $3 billion in 2012 purportedly to settle subsidy payments due to petroleum product marketers but there is no disclosure of the details of the loan, subsidy and the beneficiaries of the payments.
“The report also shows that N9.73 billion was paid to the NNPC as pipeline transportation revenue earned from Joint Venture operations but the money was neither remitted to the Federation nor properly accounted for. The NPDC in 2021 also failed to remit $7.61 million realized from the sale of crude oil.
“The report documents that about N200 billion was spent on ‘refineries rehabilitation’ between 2020 and 2021 but ‘none of the refineries was operational in 2021 despite the spending.’ NEITI wants the spending to be investigated, as the money may be missing.”
Joined in the suit as Respondent is Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
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