SERAP v Nigeria
Following recent discovery of massive and systemic corruption by public officials, SERAP through its lawyer Mr Femi Falana, SAN, and former President West African Bar Association petitioned the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor in The Hague in 2008 asking him to use “his position and powers to examine and investigate whether the systemic/grand corruption in Nigeria amounts to a crime against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC, and to prevail on the Nigerian government to fulfil its obligations to effectively and fairly investigate and prosecute all allegations of grand corruption since 1985″. The petition was widely covered in the media. The petition is still pending before the ICC.
SERAP v Nigeria
Following the discovery that $16 billion budgeted for supply of electricity to millions of Nigerians was stolen or mismanaged, SERAP in 2009 sued the government in court “over the failure to effectively tackle corruption in the power sector, which has resulted in the theft of $16b meant for the power projects, and the denial of access to reliable and uninterrupted electricity services for majority of Nigerians,” arguing that “without access to improved quality and quantity of electricity services, Nigeria cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; reducing child mortality; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.” The case is pending before the court.
SERAP v Nigeria
SERAP in 2009 dragged the Federal Government to the International Criminal Court at the Hague Netherlands requesting the then Mr Luis Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor of the ICC to use his position “to investigate allegations of unlawful killing of at least 326 people and perpetration of other crimes under international law during the violence this month in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria; and the reports that the military and police used excessive force against both Christians and Muslims in responding to the violence.”
The petition has received favourable consideration as the ICC has decided to hear SERAP’s complaint.
In the response to SERAP’s petition, the ICC sent a letter dated 8 February 2010, and signed by M.P. Dillon, Head of Information and Evidence Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor, to the effect that, “The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court acknowledges receipt of your communication. This communication has been duly entered in the Communications Register of the Office. We will give consideration to this communication, as appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. As soon as a decision is reached, we will inform you in writing.” Earlier, in a petition dated 29 January, 2010 and sent to Mr Ocampo, SERAP said that “Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and deposited its instrument of ratification on 27 September 2001.
As a result of this case, the Federal Government (through the office of Director Legal Services Ministry of Defence) has written to SERAP inviting the organization to the public hearing of the “Board of Inquiry on Jos Crisis and the activities of the JTF at the Special Task Force (STF) Headquarters. The sitting was sequel to your petition titled: ‘International Criminal Court to investigate recurring crisis in Plateau State, which has been forwarded from the ICC Prosecutor’s office to Nigeria.”
SERAP & others v Nigeria
This suit filed in 2010 before the Federal High Court Abuja is seeking official publication of report on missing $12.4 billion oil windfall. The suit was filed by SERAP and five other NGOs.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to make an order compelling the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation to publish detailed accounts relating to the spending of the colossal sum of money between 1988 and 1994. They also seek for an order of the court compelling the respondents to diligently and effectively bring to justice anyone suspected of corruption and mismanagement of the 12.4 billion dollars oil windfall.
They also want 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 have 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.
According to the plaintiffs, “The need for information regarding the spending of $12.4 billion oil windfall is important to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and to fulfil Nigeria’s international obligations to promote the development of the country. Access to information of this nature is especially important in this country, which is struggling to establish the rule of law and democracy in the face of underdevelopment, poverty, illiteracy and diseases. The right of access to information is also crucial to the realisation of all other human rights, including the peoples’ right to their natural wealth and resources.”
The plaintiffs also argued that: “The diversion and/or mismanagement of the $12.4 billion oil windfall is a violation of Nigerians’ right to natural resources and wealth and to economic development, as recognised and guaranteed by 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act). Under the African Charter, the Nigerian government has a legal responsibility to utilise 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 be exploited in the interest of the people.”
Hope for a definite legal pronouncement and accountability for the missing $12.4 billion oil windfall was recently kept alive as the Federal High Court in Abuja finally adjourned the suit to 23 November 2012 for judgment.
This development followed the hearing of arguments and re-adoption of written addresses by lawyers to the parties in September 2012 before Hon Justice Gabriel Kolawole.
At the hearing, the Federal Government insisted that the enactment by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria Idris Legbo Kutigi of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 “exceeded his Constitutional powers by liberalising the rules on locus standi, permitting public impact litigation, and allowing the inclusion of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the Rules.”
The government also said that it could not find the Okigbo report, and had no duty to render account on the spending of the accrued revenue.
It was also argued for the government that “only the AGF as a defender of public interest has the right to seek information on the spending of the $12.4 billion oil windfall,” and that the Plaintiffs have no such right. 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.
It would be recalled that the case initially set down for judgment on Thursday 24 July 2011 has suffered several adjournments. The case was previously adjourned to 16 March 2012 for re-adoption of written addresses but was not heard as the court did not sit.
When the matter first came up for judgment, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, said the judgment was not yet ready to be delivered. According to the judge then, “the judgment is not yet ready. I have to give priority to criminal cases which are very important. I have a backlog of judgments which are older than this case. I regret the delay.” The judge subsequently adjourned the case to October 21 2011 to deliver the judgment.
However, when the case came up on 21 October 2011 it was again adjourned indefinitely because the court did not sit. It was at this point that the suit became affected by the provisions of Section 194 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which provides that, “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.”
SERAP v Nigeria
This suit filed in 2011 before the Federal High Court in Ikeja alleged the “failure of the government to release information and documents on the spending of recovered stolen funds.” In the case, SERAP argued that “the disclosure of the information requested will give the general public a true picture and a clear understanding of how the spending of recovered public stolen funds have impacted on the lives of the poor and indigent and other disadvantaged Nigerians.”
SERAP has successfully obtained the court’s permission to sue for the release of documents on the spending of recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999. The order has now cleared the way for SERAP to advance its case against the government. The order for leave for an order of mandamus was granted against the Accountant-General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke. The case, which is seeking several declaratory reliefs, is still pending in court.
Prof. Dr. Peter Eigen, founder of Transparency International hailed SERAP for instituting the case and for obtaining the court’s order when he wrote: “Excellent work, SERAP! Please keep me informed of further development in the case.”
SERAP v Nigeria
This suit filed in 2011 before the Federal High Court Ikeja seeks disclosure of the details and basis of government’s spending on fuel subsidy for 2011. SERAP is requesting the court to grant several declaratory reliefs.
SERAP has successfully obtained the court’s permission to sue Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA for the release of the basis for oil subsidy spending for 2011: The order granted by Justice S. Adah, followed the hearing of argument from SERAP’s counsel on the application for leave for an order of mandamus against the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, and the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke. The case is pending in court.
SERAP v Government of Oyo State, South-West Nigeria
SERAP in 2011 sued Oyo State Governor before the High Court of Oyo State over failure to account for spending on primary education. The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by Tayo Oyetibo, SAN.
This followed the organization’s request in June 2011 made under the Freedom of Information Act 2011 for “up-to-date information and documents on the spending relating to primary education in the state, covering the period from 2005 when the first budget was released for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) program in the state.” SERAP had made similar request to the governors of Enugu, Kaduna and Rivers states.
In this case, SERAP argued that “the power or discretion to refuse to give access to information requested for cannot be exercised in vacuo. Such a power or discretion must be provided for by the FOI Act itself. This means, therefore, that a request for information can only be denied or turned down if the information requested is one which is exempted from disclosure under the provisions of the FOI Act. In the case at hand, the information requested relates strictly to the receipt and expenditure of public funds on primary education in the state.” This suit seeks to affirm the national-wide application of the FoI Act, not only to the federal government but also the state governments.
The State High Court has dismissed the case on technical grounds: that SERAP did not possess the locus as the organization was not directly affected by the case, and that SERAP did not disclose the purpose for which the information requested was needed. SERAP has appealed the case.
SERAP v Central Bank of Nigeria
SERAP sued Central Bank of Nigeria in 2012 over failure to disclose authorization of spending of government subsidy for 2011. In the case, SERAP alleged failure to release information and documents on the authorization by the CBN of over N1.26 trillion as subsidy for 2011. The suit filed at the Federal High Court Ikeja followed a Freedom of Information request by SERAP. SERAP is arguing that under the FOI Act, it has the right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution. The information being sought relates to the spending on fuel ‘subsidy’ in 2011 and in particular the authorization of the sum of N1.26 trillion paid by the Central Bank of Nigeria. SERAP is also making some declaratory reliefs. The case is pending in court.
SERAP v Nigeria
On the celebration of the UN Water Day on 22 March 2009, SERAP and Lateef Olawale Yussuf, (a Nigerian tax payer and one affected by the subject matter of the suit) sued the Federal Government over its “failure to provide access to safe and affordable water and sanitation services for about 80 million of Nigeria’s estimated 140 million people,” saying that “clean water is lacking, activities like washing of hands, cleaning of food, brushing of teeth often taken for granted in more organized societies may be disregarded because people are forced to make a choice to ration the little water, if any, that they are able to scoop up.”
The Plaintiffs stated that, “The right to water is a fundamental human right, and the failure and/or negligence of the Defendants to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the right of millions of Nigerians to safe and affordable water and sanitation services have continued to contribute to the violations of other human rights, including the right to equal treatment; the right to a general satisfactory environment; the right to health; the right to life; and the right to human dignity and security. Without access to improved and safe water supply Nigeria cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; and ensuring environmental sustainability.” The case is pending before the court.
SERAP v Nigeria
SERAP filed in 2009 a case against the Nigerian government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and six major oil companies operating in Nigeria before the ECOWAS Community Court in Abuja over pollution and associated human rights violations in the Niger Delta. Also joined as Defendants in the suit are: Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC); Elf Petroleum Nigeria Ltd; Agip Nigeria PLC; Chevron Oil Nigeria PLC; Total Nigeria PLC; and Exxonmobil Corporation.
The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by Femi Falana, SAN.
SERAP alleged that “the government of Nigeria and the oil companies are individually and/or collectively responsible for serious violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, to work, to health, to water, to life and human dignity, to a clean and healthy environment; and to economic and social development. The Defendants have failed to effectively address the impact of oil-related pollution and environmental damage on agriculture and fisheries; oil spills and waste materials polluting water used for drinking and other domestic purposes; and to enforce laws and regulations to protect the environment and prevent pollution.” The suit is now fixed for judgment before the ECOWAS Court.
SERAP v Nigeria
SERAP in 2012 filed a request before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, asking the court to “consider the effects of corruption on the poverty level in Nigeria, and whether the rising and systemic poverty violates specific human rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
SERAP is asking the court “to assess the legal and human rights consequences of poverty, including whether increased poverty breaches the right to equality and non-discrimination, right of the people to socio-economic development, and their right to natural wealth and resources.”
SERAP is also asking the court to consider the “disclosure by the Statistician-General of the Federation and CEO of the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, Yemi Kale that 112.519 million Nigerians, that is around seventy per-cent of the country’s estimated 163 million population, live in relative poverty conditions.”
SERAP said: “The question for determination has been framed in terms of law, and raises problem of human rights law as established by the African Charter. The request by its very nature is susceptible of a reply based on law; indeed it is scarcely susceptible of a reply otherwise than on the basis of law. As such, the request is not affected by the provisions of article 34(6) of the African Protocol, requiring declaration by States as a condition of access to the court.” The case is pending for hearing before the court.