$12.4b oil windfall: FG to probe Babangida

Pundits are saying the countdown to IBB ‘undeclaring’ his interest in the Presidency in 2011 has begun with reports that the Federal Government may take legal action against former military President Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and will establish a panel to determine if there is evidence to prove the allegation of mismanagement of $12.4 billion during his tenure. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), the Attorney 

General of the Federation and Minister of Justice disclosed that a committee would be set up to review the allegations to see if a criminal charge could be sustained.

Adoke was responding to a petition by a coalition of civil society groups, asking the government to implement recommendations of the Dr. Pius Okigbo report by prosecuting Babangida.

Allegations of corruption and mismanagement of $12.4 billion in a Dedicated and Special Accounts while he was in office should be probed, the groups stated.

A letter by Adoke dated 12th May 2010 with reference number HAGF/PG/2010/Vol1 said: “I acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 5th May 2010.

 I appreciate your effort in making available a signed copy of the Dr. Pius Okigbo Panel Report, and as appropriate, I shall set up a Committee that will confirm the authenticity of the said report and also review the allegations and recommendations contained therein with a view to ascertaining whether these allegations can sustain a criminal charge.

 While we shall keep you informed of our effort in this regard, I would like to thank you for your concerted effort in sustaining the fight against corruption in our society.”

In his reply, the Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accoun-tability Project (SERAP), Adetokunbo Mumuni, reacted to the AGF’s statement thus: “While we prepare a detailed response to the letter by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, we would like to welcome the clear commitment of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to prosecute the former military president on the basis of the strong and compelling evidence contained in the Okigbo report.”

Mumuni urged the government to accelerate the process of investigating and prosecuting the case. He argued that if the case was pursued to a logical conclusion, it would show that the government could do things differently.
“This would also provide effective remedy for the countless victims of high level official corruption in the country,” he added.

Mumuni continued: “We urge the Honourable Attorney General to involve the civil society and the United Nations in the work of the committee to ensure that justice is not only done but seen to be done. We stand ready to offer full support and assistance to the authorities in the prosecution of suspected perpetrators of the $12.4bn scam.”

The groups that send the petition are: SERAP; Women Advocates and Documentation Centre (WARDC); Access to Justice, AJ; Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR); Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Partnership for Justice (PFJ); Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA); Nigeria Liberty Forum (NLF); Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS); and Centre for the Rule of Law (CFR).

The petition by the groups was signed by Adetokunbo Mumuni; Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, WARDC; Joseph Otteh, Executive Director, AJ; Auwal Rafsanjani, Executive Director, CISLAC; Kayode Ogundamisi, Convener, NLF; Olanrewaju Suraju, Head, HEDA; Olasupo Ojo, President, CDHR; Itoro Eze-Anaba, Managing Partner, PFJ; Moshood Erubami, President, VOTAS; and Tejumade Oke, Programme Director, CFR.

Adoke had requested a signed copy of the Okigbo Report when the groups sent the petition. He promised to act on it when he receives it.

But the former president, IBB has promptly described Adoke’s statement as “unambiguous”. His spokesman Kassim Afegbua in astatement said:

“What the Attorney General said in his response to the petition is unambiguous; that the government will try to ascertain whether that is the true copy of the Okigbo report. The whole concept of civil society organisations bringing signed copy[ies] of a Federal Government Report to government raises a lot of curiosity and mischief on the part of the civil societies. I have not seen a situation where a government will set up a panel, only for report to be given to it [government] by unknown bodies.

“Despite all the clear cut attempts to rubbish the good name of General Babangida by this gang of sinuous fawns who want to play the ‘angelic’ role as civil societies, I am yet to find anywhere in the whole wide world where these organisations have rendered account of their own grants from foreign countries in the years of their existence. This is our challenge to all of them,” Afegbua said.

In a letter dated 5th May 2010, they sent the 352-page original report. They also quoted parts of the report which described the management of resources at the time.

“The Dedication and Special Accounts had become a parallel budget for the Presidency. The decision as to what expenditure items to be financed out of these dedicated accounts was made by the President alone. For example, the accounts had been utilized to defray aim assortment of expenses that could not in any way be described as priority such as: $2.92 million to make Documentary Film on Nigeria: $18.30 million to purchase TV/Video for the Presidency; $23.98 million for Staff Welfare in the Presidency; $.99 million for travels of the First Lady abroad; and $59.72 million for security,” the Okigbo report stated.

“The approved budget for the Federation did not reflect the receipts into the Dedication and other Special Accounts; that the balances kept in these accounts were not included in the Federation Account, a practice which violated the fundamental precepts of the federal fiscal relations in Nigeria, and that in a number of cases, there were significant variations between the amounts approved for payment and the actual disbursements made, without any further explanation from the documents supplied,” the report added.

The Dr. Pius Okigbo Panel set up under former Head of State, General Sani Abacha’s administration, had raised questions on how the oil windfall during Babangida’s tenure was managed.