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SERAP sues NNPC over failure to account for ‘missing $2.04bn, N164bn oil revenues’

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited over the “failure to account for and explain the whereabouts of the alleged missing USD$2.04 billion and N164 billion oil revenues.”

The suit followed the allegations documented in the recently published 2020 audited report by the Auditor General of the Federation that the NNPC failed to remit the money into the Federation Account, saying that the money may have been diverted.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/549/2024 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the NNPC to account for and explain the whereabouts of the missing USD$2.04 billion and N164 billion oil revenues, as documented in report by the Auditor-General.”

SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel the NNPC to hand over suspected perpetrators to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation and prosecution.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel the NNPC to ensure the full recovery and remittance of the missing USD$2.04 billion and N164 billion into the Federation Account.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “There is a legitimate public interest in providing the details sought. The NNPC has a legal responsibility to account for and explain the whereabouts of the disappeared money.”

SERAP is arguing that, “The missing oil revenues have further damaged the already precarious economy in the country and contributed to high levels of deficit spending by the government.”

SERAP is also arguing that, “Without the full recovery and remittance of the missing USD$2.04 billion and N164 billion oil revenues, the dire economic situation may worsen and Nigerians will continue to be denied access to basic public goods and services.”

According to SERAP, “the Auditor-General has for many years documented reports of disappearance of public funds from the NNPC. Nigerians continue to bear the brunt of these missing oil revenues.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Kehinde Oyewumi, read in part: “The alleged missing oil revenues reflect a failure of NNPCL accountability more generally and are directly linked to the institution’s continuing failure to uphold the principles of transparency and accountability.”

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“The failure by the NNPC to account for and explain the whereabouts of the disappeared money is a grave violation of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Freedom of Information Act, national anticorruption laws, and the country’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption.”

“Had the NNPCL and its subsidiaries accounted for and remitted the disappeared public funds into the Federation Account, it is likely that more funds would have been allocated to the fulfillment of economic and social rights of Nigerians, such as increased spending on public goods and services.”

“The missing oil revenues have also impeded Nigerians’ ability to enjoy their economic and social rights, and denied them access to essential public goods and services, especially at the time of cost of living crisis in the country.”

“Nigerians have the right to know the whereabouts of the disappeared oil money. Ensuring transparency and accountability in the management of oil revenues would advance the right of Nigerians to restitution, compensation and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“According to the recently published 2020 audited report by the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF), the NNPC failed to remit over USD$2 billion and N164 billion oil revenues into the Federation Account.”

“The Auditor-General fears that the money may have been diverted into private pockets, denying the government the funding needed to carry out its activities.”

“The NNPCL reportedly failed and/or refused to remit N151,121,999,966. The NNPCL without any justification deducted the money from the oil royalties assessed for 2020 by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) now Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).”

“The NNPCL has failed to account for the missing public funds. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered and remitted into the Federation Account.”

“The NNPCL also failed to remit USD$19,774,488.15 collected as government revenue into the Federation Account. The Auditor-General wants the NNPCL to account for the money, recover and remit it into the Federation Account, and to hand over those suspected to be involved to the ICPC and the EFCC.”

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“The NNPCL also reportedly failed to account for USD$2,021,411,877.47 and N13,313,565,786.49 of royalties collected from crude oil and gas sales and gas flare.”

“The Auditor-General wants the public funds fully recovered and remitted into the Federation Account and for those suspected to be responsible for the missing public funds to be handed over to the ICPC and the EFCC.”

“Despite the country’s enormous oil wealth, ordinary Nigerians have derived very little benefit from oil money primarily because of widespread grand corruption, and the entrenched culture of impunity of perpetrators.”

“SERAP notes that Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) requires public institutions to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”

“Section 16(2) of the Nigerian Constitution further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’”

“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] imposes clear responsibility on the NNPCL to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution.”

“Paragraph 3112(ii) of the he Financial Regulations 2009 provides that, ‘Where a public officer fails to account for government revenue, such officer shall be surcharged for the full amount involved and such officer shall be handled over to either the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).’”

“Nigeria has made legally binding commitments under the UN Convention against Corruption to ensure accountability in the management of public resources. Articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on the NNPCL to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.”

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

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