SERAP Sues Okonjo-Iweala Over Missing 30tn Naira

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Minister of Finance in Nigeria.Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been sued by a civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) over “failure to provide information about spending of the alleged missing 30 trillion Naira, which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government in the past four years”.

The suit filed at the Federal High Court Ikoyi followed a Freedom of Information request by SERAP to Mrs Okonjo-Iweala dated February 2, 2015.

The suit was filed on behalf of the organisation by SERAP Senior Staff Attorney, Olukayode Majekodunmi.

Soludo’s Disclosure

SERAP’s suit is coming after disclosure by the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, that over 30 trillion Naira had been missing, or stolen, or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged under the minister’s watch.

The Minister said she would not want to respond to the allegation, as “it did not happen”.

In the suit, SERAP argued that “a necessary implication of the rule of law is that a public functionary and institution can only act in accordance with law, as to do otherwise may enthrone arbitrariness. Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for public official like the Minister of Finance to ignore the provisions of the law”.

SERAP also argued that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala “as trustee of public funds, has a legal duty to render account on the missing 30 trillion Naira to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so.”

According to the group, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala has “so far failed, refused and/or neglected to provide the Plaintiff with the details of the information requested. By virtue of Section 1(1) of the FOI Act 2011, the Plaintiff is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution. By the provisions of Section 2(7) and 31 of the FOI Act 2011, the Defendant is a public official”.

“By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received. By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FOI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to spending of the alleged missing N30tn is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means.

“The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of National interest, public peace and security, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability. The Defendant will not suffer any injury or prejudice if the information is released to the Plaintiff,” the organisation said.

“Provide Clarity”

The organisation further argued that, “unless the reliefs sought herein are granted, the Defendant will continue to be in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, and other statutory responsibilities. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application as the Defendant have nothing to lose if the application is granted”.

“As a key agency of government, the Ministry of Finance has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s resources and wealth is used solely to fulfil the basic economic and social rights of all Nigerians and achieve the country’s overall socio-economic development. This implies providing strong leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption, and to refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies any allegations of corruption in which any agencies of government may be involved or officials of your Ministry may be complicit,” the organisation also argued.

“Under Binding Legal Obligation”

The group stressed that it was necessary to provide clarity as to what exactly happened to the missing 30 trillion Naira if the Ministry of Finance would continue to play a leadership role in the transparent and accountable management of the nation’s resources and wealth. It said that such transparency would enable the Ministry enjoy the public trust and confidence essential for its effectiveness and impact.

The organisation is also seeking “a declaration that by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Defendant is under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff with up to date information relating to the spending of the alleged missing 30 trillion Naira, which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government in the past four years.

SERAP is also asking for “any receipt, however described, arising from the operation of any law; any return, however described, arising from or in respect of any property held by the Government of the Federation and any return by way of interest on loans and dividends in respect of shares or interest held by the Government of the Federation in any company or statutory body”.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the application.

Solution To Crude Oil Theft Proffered At The 11th Aret Adams Lecture

Participants at this year’s annual Aret Adams Lecture Series have come to a conclusion that there is no single bullet solution to curb crude oil theft in Nigeria.

Political will, technology deployment, increased funding for security operatives and international collaboration are some of the solutions proffered as a part of the holistic approach to tackling the challenge.

Industry experts estimate that over a hundred thousand barrel of crude is stolen daily from Nigeria, a trend many say have become altogether worrisome.

Sanusi Says Suspension No Surprise, To Seek Legal Clarification

The suspended CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi has said that he may have to seek some form of legal advice over his suspension by the Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan.

Mr Sanusi spoke to CNBC on the telephone on Thursday morning and he said that his suspension did not come as a surprise, saying he was rather surprised that it had taken this long.

Reacting to the allegations of financial recklessness, the suspended Governor said that he was aware of the audit of the reporting council and that all the questions and concerns that were raised, he had provided answers to.

“We all know what this is about. This is about consequences for decisions I have taken. This is something that is long overdue. I am surprised it took them so long”, he said.

Mr Sanusi went further to say that he may have to cross check the powers of the President to suspend a CBN Governor.

He said, “Even if I challenge it, I am not going back to the job, it will be in the interest of the institution to cross check once and for all if the President has the power to do this. The reason is if it’s not challenged, for now the next CBN Governors will not be independent for fear of being suspended by politicians. I do plan to have the courts confirm if indeed that authority exists and I will challenge it.”

When asked about the implications of his suspension on the market, Mr Sanusi said, “Basically, my concern is for the safety of the market, I have had a wonderful time in service to my country. I would not want to see all of my work unravelled. No individual is worth it.”

Mr Sanusi said that he was in Niamey along with other Governors of West African Central Banks to meet with the President of Niger and President of Ghana, when the information reached him. He left the meeting to hand over to his deputy, Dr. Sarah Alade, whom he had been asked to hand over to and who “fortunately” was with him in Niamey, capital city of the West African country, Niger.

Sanusi’s Suspension A Distraction From Finding Missing $20 Billion Oil Money – SERAP

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has described the suspension of the Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi as “a distraction and can only contribute to shifting the focus of the Government from the real issue, which is finding the missing $20 billion oil money.

SERAP, in a statement on Thursday by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said that, “The Government should not politicise the fight against corruption. Our concern remains the urgent, thorough, transparent and effective investigation into allegations that $20 billion oil money is missing from the account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

“If it is true that the suspension is linked with Sanusi’s public disclosure of the missing funds, SERAP believes that this will be clearly wrong and contrary to the Government’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption to target a whistle-blower simply for putting the information in the public domain. No one should be victimized for contributing to the fight against corruption, which is the moral and legal responsibility of any serious, open and people oriented government.

“Unless the Government comes clean about what exactly has happened to the $20 billion missing oil money, the NNPC will remain unaccountable to Nigerians for its action. This will not be consistent with the attitude of a government establishment funded with tax payers’ money.

“The Government’s action in finding the missing money and punishing suspected perpetrators is critical if it is to enjoy the trust and confidence of Nigerians in the fight against corruption.”

Jonathan Suspends CBN Governor, Sanusi

The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has suspended Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from his position as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The suspension was announced in a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.

The statement read that, “Having taken special notice of reports of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and other investigating bodies, which indicate clearly that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s tenure has been characterised by various acts of financial recklessness and misconduct, which are inconsistent with the administration’s vision of a Central Bank propelled by the core values of focused economic management, prudence, transparency and financial discipline;

“Being also deeply concerned about far-reaching irregularities  under Mallam Sanusi’s watch which have distracted the Central Bank away from the pursuit and achievement of its statutory mandate; and being determined to urgently re-position the Central Bank of Nigeria for greater efficiency, respect for due process and accountability, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has ordered the immediate suspension of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from the Office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“President Jonathan has further ordered that Mallam Sanusi should hand over to the most senior Deputy Governor of the CBN, Dr Sarah Alade, who will serve as Acting Governor until the conclusion of on-going investigations into breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the CBN.

“The President expects that as Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Alade would focus on the core mandate of the Bank and conduct its affairs with greater professionalism, prudence and propriety to restore domestic and international confidence in the country’s apex bank.

“The Federal Government of Nigeria reassures all stakeholders in Nigeria’s financial and monetary system that this decision has been taken in absolute good faith, in the overall interest of the Nigerian economy and in accordance with our laws and due process.”

 

Sarah Alade To Serve As Acting CBN Governor

Dr Sarah Alade, will serve as Acting Governor of the Central Bank until the conclusion of on-going investigations into breaches of enabling laws, due process and mandate of the CBN.

This is following President Goodluck Jonathan’s suspension of Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from his position as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, on Thursday, in a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati.

Dr. Sarah Omotunde Alade was the most senior Deputy Governor of the CBN and was appointed Deputy Governor (Economic Policy) Central Bank of Nigeria on March 26, 2007.

She attended the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where she obtained a B.Sc (Hons) degree in Economics in 1976. She also obtained an M.Comm degree at the University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia in 1983 and a Ph.D Management Science (Operations Research), from the University of Ilorin in 1991.

Dr. Sarah Alade commenced her working career in 1977 with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ilorin, Kwara State. In 1991, she joined the University of Ilorin as a Lecturer in the Department of Accounting and Finance. She joined the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1993 as an Assistant Director in the Research Department where she served as Head, State Government Finance Office (1993-1996), Head, Federal Government Finance Office (1996-2000) and Head, Fiscal Analysis Division (2000-2004).

Dr. Alade has served on the teams on major economic policy studies, and has been involved in the preparation of Central Bank of Nigeria’s Monetary and Credit Policy Proposals over the years. She was actively involved in the drafting of the Medium Term Economic Programme (MTP) for Nigeria and the IMF staff Monitored Programme/Standby Arrangement.

Dr. Alade was appointed Director, Banking Operations Department in May 2004. In that capacity, she served as Chairman Board of Directors, Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) as well as Secretary, National Payments System Committee (NPSC).

Dr. Alade was a member of the Technical committee of the Vision 2010 and currently a member of the Technical Committee of Vision 2020 and member of the National Economic Management Team (EMT).

As Deputy Governor, Economic Policy, Dr. Mrs. Alade superintends over the Economic Policy Directorate, comprising the Research, Monetary Policy, Trade and Exchange, Statistics Departments and Financial Markets Department. As Chair of the Monetary Policy Implementation Committee (MPIC), she interfaces with operational departments and coordinates technical inputs for the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

Dr. Alade, who is a member of the Nigerian Economic Society (NES), has several publications to her credit and is currently carrying out research into Interest Rate Policy and Monetary Policy Implementation in Nigeria. Dr. Mrs. Alade is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Operational Research. She is married with children.

“The President expects that as Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Alade would focus on the core mandate of the Bank and conduct its affairs with greater professionalism, prudence and propriety to restore domestic and international confidence in the country’s apex bank.

Kerosene Subsidy: Petroleum Minister Calls For Caution

The Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke has called for caution while the controversy around kerosine subsidy is sorted.

Mrs Alison-Madueke told journalists that it was essential the issues around kerosine subsidy were settled once and for all.

Meanwhile, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC believes it’s the prerogative of the executive to address the issues because the agency has done it parts by making the necessary submissions.

The Minster of Petroleum and the GMD of the NNPC were speaking to journalists after the Senate public hearing on the controversial missing funds from the NNPC.

NNPC Has Been Cleared Of Missing Money Scandal – Spokesman

An NNPC spokesman, Omar Ibrahim, on Monday disclosed that the petroleum agency has been cleared of all allegations leveled against it by the CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi, through its response to the controversial letter which claimed a sum of $48.9 billion was ‘missing.’

Mr Ibrahim told Channels Television during a Sunrise Daily interview that the position of theagency concerning the CBN governor’s letter to the President which made allegations of a missing 49.8 billion dollars supposedly unremitted by the agency to the FAAC, was wrongly written, insisting that “We believe that that letter was born either out of complete mischief or lack of understanding of the operations of the oil industry and how oil is marketed.”

There are five streams for crude oil proceeds: equity crude, taxes, royalty, third party and NPDC. Mr Ibrahim explained while speaking on Sunrise Daily that the total sum of monies realised from all these streams is over 67 billion dollars.

“Since we have 5 streams, NNPC is responsible for only equity crude,” he said.

What is collected in taxes is paid into CBN account for the FAAC in the name of the FIRS. For royalty, we pay it into the DPR account in the CBN.

What the NNPC pays into the Central Bank in its name is the equity, he said, adding that the ‘third party’ and the ‘NPDC’ is “not very significant.”

According to him taxes take up between 50-88 percent of the total proceeds while royalty accounts for 0-20 percent. The NNPC pays the rest into the FAAC with the CBN.

He stated that the DPR is not an off-shoot of the NNPC as widely believed but an “agency of government in the ministry of petroleum resources.” It is a parastatal “completely independent of the NNPC.”

Mr Ibrahim insisted that the 4th of October reply to the letter written on 25th of September cleared the NNPC of all allegations and “that was why nobody came back to us.”

“How it lived and became an issue now is something we’ve been wondering.”

Asked if the CBN was satisfied with NNPC’s response, Mr Ibrahim said “the CBN did not communicate to us directly and therefore we did not communicate to them directly.”

He however did not confirm if the CBN received their letter but was quick to conclude that they received the letter “because they sent it to Mr President; the President sent it to NNPC for clarification and it was sent back to His Excellency and we believe the President would have cleared shown the Governor of the Central Bank.

“That ended the matter as far as we are concerned.”

On Sanusi’s purported ignorance of the workings of the NNPC, Mr Ibrahim hinted that the governor of the apex bank does not know everything.

“People work under him and they are the ones who report to him,” he said, hinting that his immediate lieutenants did not see the letter nor approve it.”