Court dismisses IBB’s $12.4bn Gulf oil windfall suit

Channels Television  
Updated November 29, 2012

A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the suit filed by civil society groups against the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, delivered the ruling on Thursday in Abuja. He said the applicants lack the locus standi to institute the case.

Justice Kolawole however said the plaintiffs should not be seen as busy bodies but patriotic citizens.

Six civil society groups, including the Socio-Economic and Accountability Project (SERAP), Access to Justice and Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and Partnership for Justice sued the Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF) and the CBN over the much publicised $12.4 billion oil windfall, which the country recorded between 1988 and 1992, while former military President, Retired General Ibrahim Babangida, was in power.

The groups wanted the court to compel the government to release a report of a probe panel headed by Pius Okigbo which probed the spending of the money by the government.

The Federal Government raised many arguments against the suit including: that the report was missing, only the AGF could demand for such a report, and the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

The Judge held that the applicants could not establish the allegation of a “dedicated account” within the CBN where the money was domiciled.

Justice Kolawole further said the action was “Status barred” as applicant failed to approach the court within 12 months allowed by law in 2005 after the release of the Okadigbo Report on the misappropriation of the windfall.

He said that the applicant had failed to produce a certified copy of the Okigbo Report, adding that “the issues raised remained doubtful in the circumstance.”

The judge said: “More worrisome is the fact that Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 relied on by the applicant is in conflict with Section 46 (1) (3) of the 1999 Constitution.

“The Chief Justice of Nigeria has assumed legislative powers in the amendment of the rules to enlarge the justiceable rights of the applicants not originally captured in the Constitution.

“This is, however, not done to discredit the justiceable rights as enshrined in the African Charter on Fundamental Human Rights, which the applicants may have relied on heavily.

“All the equitable relives sought in the application are hereby dismissed, unless the applicants are able to establish the existence of a dedicate account which the money was kept, I am afraid the other auxiliary relives shall not be granted,” he said.

The applicants had in 2010 brought the motion on notice pursuant to Order 1 Rule 2 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 as reserved by Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution.

They have also relied on Order 2 Rules 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 and the inherent jurisdiction of the court.

The applicants, therefore, sought an order compelling the respondents to publish detailed statement of the account relating to the spending of the $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994.

The applicant also sought for an order directing the respondents to diligently and effectively bring to justice anyone suspected of corruption and mismanagement of the money.

They further sought for an order directing the respondents to return to the Federal account any money which was the subject matter of corruption.

The applicant sought for an order directing the respondents to provide adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or guarantee of non-repetition to millions of Nigerians that had been denied as the result of the misuse of the money.

The applicant had among other declarations, prayed the court to rule that the refusal of the respondents to release the detailed statement of account relating to the windfall was illegal and unlawful.

The applicant argued that they were entitled to information as guaranteed by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

Sola Egbeyinka, who held the brief of Femi Falana, counsel to the applicants told newsmen after the proceedings that the ruling would be challenged.