IBB: Coalition Sues AGF, CBN Over $12.4B Oil Windfall
ABUJA, Sept 12, (THEWILL) - Six civil society groups in the country have dragged the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking information on the spending of the allegedly missing accrued $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994.
The Suit Number FHC/ABJ/CS/640/10 dated 08 September 2010, and brought under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 was filed by the groups’ lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana.
The groups are: Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); Women Advocates and Documentation Center (WARDC); Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR); Access to Justice (AJ); Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), and Partnership for Justice.
The groups said that, "In 1994 the Federal Government 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 $200 million by June 1994. As a result of the mismanagement of the said sum of $12.2 billion by the military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, the Okigbo Panel recommended that the Dedicated and Special Accounts be discontinued."
The groups argued that, "The need for information regarding the spending of $12.4 billion oil windfall is important to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and to fulfill Nigeria’s international obligations to promote the development of the country. Access to information of this nature is especially important in this country, which is struggling to establish the rule of law and democracy in the face of underdevelopment, poverty, illiteracy and diseases. The right of access to information is also crucial to the realization of all other human rights, including the peoples’ right to their natural wealth and resources."
"Public bodies hold information not for themselves but as custodians of the public good and everyone has a right to access this information. Unless the Court compels Mr. Adoke and the CBN to disclose the information requested in this case, the information may never be disclosed and Nigeria will remain in breach of its international anticorruption and human rights obligations and commitments," the groups further argued," the groups wrote.
They also argued that, "The diversion and/or mismanagement of the $12.4 billion oil windfall is a violation of Nigerians’ right to natural resources and wealth and to economic development, as recognized and guaranteed by 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act). Under the African Charter, the Nigerian government has a legal responsibility to utilize the natural resources of the country so as to benefit the whole people. Just as the people of every sovereign state have a permanent right to choose their own form of government so the people are entitled to insist that the natural resources of the nation be exploited in the interest of the people."
According to the groups, "the right of a people not to be dispossessed of their wealth and natural resources is not just any ordinary right, but the fundamental human right. This right is an essential element of peoples’ economic security, survival and independence."
"The point about the permanent sovereignty of peoples over their natural resources is not that the resources in question may not be mined and sold. Such doctrine would render them valueless. The point is rather that the national community in which the resources are found is to be a significant beneficiary of their exploitation. The nation-state is now expected to contribute to the welfare of all inhabitants, without even having the right to discriminate among them," the groups further argued.
The groups have also sought the following relief from the court: "That the Respondents are individually and/or collectively required to guarantee to the Applicants and all Nigerians the right to receive information regarding the spending of $12.4 billion oil windfall documented by the Pius Okigbo panel report; the right to natural wealth and resources; and the right to development, as recognized and guaranteed by Articles 2, 9, 21, and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
"That the failure, negligence and/or refusal of the Respondents individually and/or collectively to publicly and urgently release detailed statement of account relating to the spending of $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994 as documented by the Pius Okigbo panel report is illegal and unlawful as it violates Article 9 of the African Charter.
"That the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents individually and/or collectively to provide information regarding the spending of the $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994 despite requests by the Applicants is illegal and unlawful as it violates the Applicants’ right to receive information and breaches the fiduciary relationship implied and imposed by Articles 9, 21 and 22 of the African Charter.
"That the failure and/or negligence by the Respondents to ensure full transparency and accountability regarding the spending of the $12.4 billion oil windfall constitutes a fundamental breach of Nigeria’s international anticorruption and human rights obligations and commitments."