SERAP Sues Tinubu Over Missing Oil Revenues, Refineries Repair Fund

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Bola Tinubu over the failure of his administration to probe the allegations that over $15 billion in oil revenues and N200 billion budgeted to repair the refineries in Nigeria are missing and unaccounted for between 2020 and 2021.

The allegations were contained in the 2021 report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

A statement signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Sunday, disclosed that the suit, with the number FHC/L/CS/2334/2023, was filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu 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.”

In the suit, SERAP is also 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).

The group is also seeking:m an order of mandamus to compel President Tinubu to use any recovered proceeds of corruption to enhance the well-being of Nigerians.

It argued 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 allegations of corruption documented by NEITI undermine economic development of the country, trap the majority of Nigerians in poverty and deprive them of opportunities,” it added.

According to the organisation, “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, Mr Oluwadare, Mr Andrew Nwankwo, and Ms Valentina Adegoke, maintained that, “The Tinubu government has a constitutional duty to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the country’s oil wealth.”

“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,” it added.

“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 per cent 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 $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,” SERAP, which joined Mr Lateef Fagbemi, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as respondent in the suit, stated.

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