BPE Corruption Scandal: UN Working Group Urged To Refer Matter To ICC
ABUJA, August 15, (THEWILL) - A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent communication to the UN Working Group on Communications (WGC) under the Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure, expressing “serious concerns about allegations of widespread and systematic bribery and other forms of high level corruption in the privatisation process in Nigeria conducted by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).”
Among other reliefs, SERAP is asking the WGC to refer the matter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to consider “whether the allegations of widespread and systematic corruption in the privatisation process, which violates the citizens’ internationally recognized right to natural wealth and resources, also amounts to a crime against humanity against the Nigerian peoples.”
In the communication dated 15 August 2011, and signed by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said, “We consider the allegations to amount to a violation of Nigerians’ right to natural wealth and resources, and to an adequate standard of living, and urge the Working Group to use its position to ensure that the Nigerian government is held to account for these violations, and that anyone suspected to be involved in the widespread and systematic corruption is brought to justice promptly.
“Despite the country’s commitment under the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Nigerian government has failed to ensure full compliance with the basic standards of transparency, fairness, participation, and accountability in the sale and privatisation of public properties since 1999 to date. This failure was disclosure during a public hearing by the Nigerian Senate investigating the sale of public properties by the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE),” the group added.
SERAP identified examples of the alleged lack of compliance with these minimum thresholds to include: “Failure to consult with Nigerians and to provide adequate information about the privatisation process; failure to provide consumers with sufficient information on their options and remedies; failure to ensure effective access to justice for Nigerians in the privatisation process; failure to undertake a human rights impact assessment of the privatisation process; failure to ensure human rights protection before, during and after the privatisation process; and failure to ensure full disclosure of information about the allegations of the massive corruption disclosed before the Senate Committee.
“As a consequence, the process has had a negative impact on the enjoyment of the internationally recognized economic and social rights by the citizens,” the group said.
“The privatisation of public utilities is connected to different dimensions of the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, in particular to state obligation to provide access. But the privatisation process by the government through BPE has wrongfully deprived millions of Nigerians their right to natural wealth and resources, subjecting them to economic and social hardship,” the group further argued.
The group also said that, “Not only has the Nigerian government failed to deliver essential services to the citizens, it has also failed to properly and effectively enable and regulate the provision of these services.
“International human rights are limitations on the exercise of state power, and offer protection to the weak and vulnerable sectors of the population. An illegal act (such as the widespread and systematic corruption in the privatisation process), which violates human rights, though not initially directly imputable to a state, can lead to international legal responsibility of the state, not because of the act itself but because of the lack of due diligence to prevent the violation or to respond to it when it occurred,” the group also said.
According to the group, “international human rights law imposes limits or conditions on the way a given process of privatisation is carried out. In fact, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its General Comment 3 has implied that privatisation process should not be detrimental to the effective realization of all human rights.”
SERAP said there was “no effective domestic remedy in place to address the types of violations contained in this communication”. The organization therefore asked the Working Group to:
1. Find Nigeria in violation of international standards requiring the full realization of the right to natural wealth and resources, the right work, and the right to an adequate standard of living for the victims the privatization process.
2. Ask the government of Nigeria to name and shame, and to effectively bring to justice those responsible for the widespread and systematic bribery and other forms of corruption in the privatization process.
3. Ask the government of Nigeria to effectively guarantee to its citizens the internationally recognized human right to natural wealth and resources, and to reform the privatization process
4. Refer the situation to the UN Human Rights Council session to ensure full accountability and justice in the case
5. Refer the matter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court so as to determine whether the widespread and systematic corruption in the privatisation process amounts to a crime against humanity against the Nigerian citizens.