Charity Simon, Abuja
Former Coordinator of the Economy and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has taken a swipe at Socio-Economic Rights Agenda (SERAP) over a legal action in which the civil society group purports to have secured a judgment mandating her to provide answers to the management of N30 Trillion allegedly missing from government coffers while she was minister.
It would be recalled that towards the end of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, one-time governor of the Central Bank, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, had accused the administration, and Dr. Okonjo-Iweala specifically, of misappropriating N30 Trillion, which he said was earning accruing to government but which were unaccounted.
SERAP also approached a court in February 2015, under the Freedom of Information, suing Dr. Okonjo-Iweala in her personal capacity and demanding a judicial pronouncement mandating her to account for the alleged amount.
But responding to reports of the said judgment as given by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the federal High Court in Lagos, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala said it was amazing that she was sued in her personal capacity while she was still in office as minister.
Accusing SERAP of “dubious motives” as interested “political actors”, she also expressed surprise that a judgement was given against her in a matter, which suit and summons were never served on her or her office.
She also said that she was never represented in the matter and as such wondered how the judgement was secured when she did not enter appearance, haven not been served.
Speaking in a statement signed by her media advisor, Paul Nwabuikwu, the former finance minister said however that she has instructed her lawyers to establish veracity of the said judgment ad seek to set it aside.
The statement reads: “Dr Okonjo-Iweala hastens to state that she was never served with any court processes in relation to the said matter. She has not read the judgment and would therefore defer any comments on the matter.
“However from the media reports, the case was instituted in February 2015 but was not served until July 2015 after Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had already ceased to be the Minister of Finance.
“By the date the said papers were purportedly served Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was no longer a public officer and could therefore not be the subject of a request for production of any documents or information under the Freedom of information Act.
“The Court processes must have been served on others because the attention of Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was never drawn to the matter in which she appears to have been sued personally. She therefore did not engage any lawyer to act for her in the matter.
“The decision of SERAP to anchor its case on a baseless and unsubstantiated allegation by former CBN governor Professor Charles Soludo that N30 trillion –about seven times the total annual budget during the Jonathan administration– is missing confirms SERAP’s dubious motives and its role as a tool for politically motivated actors.
“It is curious that the first time Dr Okonjo-Iweala is being made aware of a matter filed against her in court is in news reports reporting the delivery of judgment. She has instructed her lawyers to take steps to set aside the judgment as it affects her”.