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SERAP kicks stalled judgment on Okigbo over $12.4bn oil windfall

SERAP kicks stalled judgment on Okigbo over $12.4bn oil windfall The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has raised the alarm over undue delay by the Abuja Division of

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قديم 06-13-2012, 01:54 PM
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افتراضي SERAP kicks stalled judgment on Okigbo over $12.4bn oil windfall

SERAP kicks stalled judgment on Okigbo over .4bn oil windfall

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has raised the alarm over undue delay by the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to deliver judgment on the suit seeking to compel the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, to disclose how the $12.4 billion oil windfall money that accrued to the Federal Government between 1988 and 1994, was spent. It would be recalled that in 1994, the Federal Government constituted the Pius Okigbo Panel with a mandate to investigate the activities of the CBN and recommend measures for the re-organisation of the apex bank. Dissatisfied with the way the case was swept under the carpet by Federal Government, SERAP, alongside six other civil society groups, approached the high court under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009. Specifically, the plaintiffs sought “an order of mandamus compelling the respondents, individually and/or collectively, to publish detailed statement of account relating to the spending of $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994, and to publish in major national newspapers a copy of the statement of account.” The group further pleaded the court to order the respondents to not only prosecute anyone indicted by the report, but to also recoup the money from them and return same to the national treasury. Besides, the plaintiffs beseeched the court for an order directing the respondents to provide adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition to millions of Nigerians that had been denied their human rights as a result of the respondents’ failure and/or negligence to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994. However, though hearing was concluded on the suit since October last year, the high court has continued to stall its judgment in the matter. On five successive occasions that trial Justice Gabriel Kolawole invited parties in the suit to appear in court for the judgment, he subsequently adjourned on excuse that there were minor typographic errors that needed correction. Some of the dates the judgment suffered sudden adjournments included October 20, 2011, April 27, 2012 and July 27. Meanwhile, going by the provisions of 194(1) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, the court ought to have delivered its judgment on the case within 90 days (three months) after closing of evidence on the matter, a period that has since elapsed. According to the section, “Every court established under this Constitution shall deliver its decision in writing not later than ninety days after the conclusion of evidence and final addresses and furnish all parties to the cause or matter determined with duly authenticated copies of the decision within seven days of the delivery thereof.” Sequel to the perceived undue delay in the judgment which is expected to expose some highly placed individuals to criminal prosecution, lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr Femi Falana, in an exclusive interview with Vanguard, alleged subterranean moves by some persons to frustrate the case. The constitutional lawyer further disclosed that he has written the presiding judge, requesting immediate delivery of judgment on the matter considering that hearing was concluded on the suit since last year. Investigations by Vanguard further revealed that owing to pressure from the plaintiffs, the trial judge has ordered the parties to appear in court today to re-adopt their processes to pave way for the verdict. Nevertheless, both the AGF and the CBN has asked the court to dismiss the suit in its entirety. In two separate preliminary objections they filed against the suit, the respondents challenged the locus-standi of the plaintiffs to institute the action. The AGF and the CBN, unanimously urged the court to reject the Okigbo panel report, saying it was not admissible in law considering that it was not published in a gazette, neither was an official white paper issued on it. The respondents equally maintained that they could not find the Okigbo report, and had no duty to render account on the spending of the accrued revenue. The CBN, in its objection, contended that the suit was non justiceable, insisting that it was not covered under the fundamental rights provisions of sections 33-46 of the 1999 Constitution. The apex bank further submitted that only the AGF, as a defender of public interest, had the right to seek information on the spending of the $12.4 billion oil windfall, insisting that the plaintiffs had no such right. However, the plaintiffs countered by saying that it was “the failure of the AGF to carry out his duty in this respect,” that prompted their legal action against the government in the first place. The plaintiffs had equally contended that: “The diversion and/or mismanagement of the $12.4 billion oil windfall was 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)”, noting that 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 form of government, so the people are entitled to insist that the natural resources of the nation is exploited in the interest of the people,” they argued.

SERAP kicks stalled judgment on Okigbo over .4bn oil windfall

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