This Day (Lagos)

1 December 2012

Nigeria: Group Faults U.S.$12.4 Billion Oil Windfall Judgement

The Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) reacted Friday over the court decision to throw out the suit seeking to mandate former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida to account for how his administration expended $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994 describing it as unfortunate and capable of fostering corruption.

The case was dismissed by Justice Gabriel Kolawole of Federal High Court, Abuja which the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni described as unfortunate and capable of working against the current fight against corruption.

The rights group therefore rejected the judgment as premised on outdated technicalities, submitting that it amounted to denial of access to justice by the court as being citizens, they had the right to know how the resources of the country were applied.

Mumuni said the court held contradictory positions by calling those who approached the court for relief on the matter as courageous and meaning well and still on the same matter he described them as busy bodies.

"At a time when this country has enacted the Freedom of Information Act, the ruling on the suit seeking accountability for the missing $12.4 billion oil windfall is a major setback for victims of large scale corruption. It potentially could encourage impunity of perpetrators of corruption. The ruling sends a wrong message that it is alright to steal public funds and that there will be no accountability for suspected perpetrators.

"On the one hand, the court held that the plaintiffs lacked locus standi to bring the case. On the other hand, the court stated that the plaintiffs should not be seen as busy bodies but patriotic citizens. The court even praised 'the courage and dedication of SERAP in instituting the matter calling the group a serious minded organisation desirous or ridding Nigeria of all forms of corruption.' But these statements would seem to be contradictory."

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