The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has initiated legal proceedings against President Bola Tinubu over what it claims is an omission to investigate the worrying claims that an estimated $15 billion in oil income and an additional N200 billion allocated for refinery repairs in Nigeria have vanished without a trace for the period covering 2020 and 2021.
SERAP’s legal action, lodged at the Federal High Court in Lagos under the reference FHC/L/CS/2334/2023, demands that President Tinubu be legally mandated to initiate thorough probes into the alarming accusations.
This includes directing relevant anti-corruption bodies to delve into the allegations of corrupt activities involving entities such as the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, alongside other State Owned Enterprises.
The advocacy group is pressing for the recovery of any misappropriated funds, with the stipulation that these should be redirected towards enhancing the welfare of the Nigerian populace.
SERAP stance on the effect of missing oil income on Nigerians
In its suit, SERAP emphasizes the critical nature of public interest in resolving these accusations, underlining that achieving justice, in this case, is a vital step towards ending a cycle of impunity and securing redress for the victims of these alleged financial misappropriations.
SERAP argues that the allegations, as documented by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in its 2021 report, not only stall economic development but also keep the majority of Nigerians entrapped in poverty, denying them opportunities for a better life.
The absence of a robust inquiry, according to SERAP, would only ensure that those suspected of misdeeds continue to evade justice and benefit from their illicit gains. SERAP has further remarked on the persistent reports of corruption and the mismanagement of oil revenues over the years, suggesting these have eroded public trust in government at all levels.
How SERAP referenced the lawsuit and the failure of Tinubu
Underpinning SERAP’s lawsuit are references to the Nigerian Constitution, anti-corruption laws, and international conventions, including the UN Convention against Corruption, which imposes obligations on the government to manage public affairs and funds with transparency and to take effective action against corruption.
The court document, authored by SERAP’s legal team comprising Kolawole Oluwadare, Andrew Nwankwo, and Valentina Adegoke, also outlines a failure by key government agencies to remit substantial amounts of oil revenue to the public treasury, with claims that these funds are unaccounted for, further calling into question the alleged spending on refinery rehabilitation while none were operational.
Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been named as a respondent in the suit, which is yet to have a hearing date set.
This legal challenge brought forward by SERAP against President Tinubu is poised to test the commitments to transparency and accountability within Nigeria’s oil sector, as the group pushes for a resolution that upholds not just the principles of good governance but also seeks justice for the Nigerian people in the face of purported financial discrepancies.
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