The Federal government has set up a committee to ascertain whether on the basis of the Okigbo report a criminal charge can be sustained against former military president General Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida (rtd) over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of $12.4 billion in the Dedicated and Special Accounts while he was in power.
The government made the commitment in a letter dated 12th May 2010 with reference number HAGF/PG/2010/Vol1; and personally signed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN.
The letter reads in part “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.”
Reacting to the letter, Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), said that, “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 also said that “We note that this commitment has been at the very center of the new government’s platform for the future. We commend the important and encouraging steps already taken by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, but strongly urge the government to accelerate action to ensure that the case is diligently and effectively prosecuted.
Pursuing this case to a logical and successful conclusion will show that our government can do things differently when it comes to the fight against corruption in this country. This would also provide effective remedy for the countless victims of high level official corruption in the country.”
“We believe that a successful prosecution of the case is a key step in improving the overall governance environment in the country. This new government now has an important opportunity to show that its words would be its deeds.
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,” Mumuni added.
The government’s letter followed a petition by a coalition of civil society groups requesting Mr Adoke to “urgently and fully implement the recommendations of the late Dr Pius Okigbo Panel Report, by ensuring the immediate and fair prosecution of General Babangida.”
The groups are: the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, 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, Executive Director, SERAP; 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 ruletti Tejumade Oke, Programme Director, CFR.
It would be recalled that in April, Mr Adoke, responding to the petition by the groups requested “for a signed copy of the Okigbo Report attached to your letter under reference.” He assured the groups that he would deal with the matter once he received signed original copy of the Okigbo report. Mr Adoke’s response was contained in a letter dated 16th April 2010 with reference number HAGF/PG/2010/Vol1, and signed by Tunde Busari, Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
In a swift response, the groups in a covering letter dated 5th May 2010 accompanying the 352-page original report sent to Mr Adoke, stated that, “Now that we have gone the extra mile to fulfil the request by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, we expect that you would now move swiftly to prosecute the former president Babangida on the basis of the Okigbo report, and ensure justice online casino to the victims of the mismanagement and corruption documented in the report.
Time is now of essence; any further delay would be justice delayed, which as you know, is justice denied.
“We believe the report was never missing but has remained in the custody of the government for years. What has been missing is not the Okigbo report but the political will by successive governments to act decisively on the report,” the groups argued.
As the Okigbo report stated, “The Dedication and Special Accounts had become a parallel budget for the Presidency. The decision as to what expenditure items to be finance 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 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 report also stated that “The impact on the exchange rate in time years under review would have been so significant that the Naira would have been stronger in 1994, in relation to the dollar, than it was in 1985 when it stood at N1 to N1.004. It
should be evident, therefore, that the burden of external debt to the Paris and London Clubs and the pressure on the exchange rate would have been substantially mitigated if not completely eliminated. It is this fact that calls to question the wisdom and prudence not in the creation of these accounts but in its disbursements.”
The groups noted that the citizens continue to “suffer the debilitating consequences of the mismanagement of the $12.4 billion. The mismanagement of this staggering amount has continued to undermine the value of the naira, precipitating underdevelopment and poverty, and impacting negatively on the living standards of millions of Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society.”
Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)
Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, Women Advocates and Documentation Center (WARDC)
Joseph Otteh, Executive Director, Access to Justice (AJ)
Olasupo Ojo, President, Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR)
Itoro Eze-Anaba, Managing Partner, Partnership for Justice
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC)
Kayode Ogundamisi, Convener, Nigeria Liberty Forum, London
Olanrewaju Suraju, Head, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA)
Moshood Erubami, President, Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS)
Tejumade Oke, Programme Director, Centre for the Rule of Law