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$12.4b IBB Era Oil Windfall Resurrects



Ebere Chibuzor

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), may be faced with some heartache over how to address a letter sent to him by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), which is now asking him to reopen inquest into the management of an oil windfall of $12.4b during the Ibrahim Babangida military presidency.

Specifically, SERAP is asking Malami to “use your good offices as a defender of public interest, and exercise your powers under Section 174(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, and sections 104–106 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act to re-open the unresolved case of missing $12.4 billion oil windfall.”

The organization asked Mr. Malami to “establish the truth about what exactly happened to the public funds reportedly spent between 1988 and 1993 by the government of former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida”.

The letter dated August 19, 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni urged Mr. Malami to “work diligently and effectively to find and publish widely the Pius Okigbo panel report, as well as bring to justice anyone suspected of corruption and mismanagement of the colossal public funds.”

The letter reads in part: “SERAP has for many years sought explanations and official release of the Okigbo panel report, which the government voluntarily established but successive governments have blocked every chance to make this happen, even claiming that the report of the panel could not be found. SERAP’s request is entirely consistent with established legal principle that in matters relating to crimes including corruption, time does not run against the state.

“Reopening the case would also send a clear message that cases of high-level official corruption would not go unpunished no matter how long it takes and that suspected perpetrators would be held to account no matter who is involved.

“SERAP also believes that re-opening the unresolved case of missing $12.4 billion oil windfall would serve as a litmus test for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari oft-repeated commitments to transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption in the country. Full accountability for the missing public funds would contribute to ending impunity of high-ranking public officials for large scale corruption and provide effective remedies to victims of corruption.

“SERAP believes that Nigerians have the right to their natural resources and wealth and to economic development, as guaranteed by 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act), the rights that are being denied by the failure of successive governments to resolve the case of missing $12.4 billion oil windfall.

“The government of President Buhari has the duty to find the Okigbo panel report and to pursue accountability on the spending of the accrued revenue. Such duty exists on the basis of Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which has become part of our national laws, as well as the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

“Reopening the case would help to provide adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition to millions of Nigerians that have been denied their human rights as a result of the failure by successive governments to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of $12.4 billion oil windfall.

“We hope that you would act swiftly in this case and do justice by reopening the case, publishing the Okigbo panel report and holding to account anyone suspected to be responsible for the missing public funds.

“SERAP notes that the Federal Government in 1994 set up the Pius Okigbo Panel to investigate the activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria and recommend measures for the re-organization of the Bank. In the course of its assignment the Okigbo panel found that the $12.5 billion in the Dedicated and Special Accounts had been depleted to $100 million.

“The panel recommended that the Dedicated and Special Accounts be discontinued. The panel also recommended the immediate re-organization of the Central Bank of Nigeria. In line with the said recommendations the Dedicated and Special Accounts were discontinued while the Central Bank was re-organized. But the truth about what exactly happened to the missing $12.4 billion oil windfall is yet to be known”, the letter read in part.

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