ABUJA – The Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Adoke (SAN) and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, have asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to reject the Okigbo panel report as “the report is not admissible in law because it has not yet been published in a gazette and no white paper has been issued on the report.”
The AGF and the CBN were responding to a suit filed against them last September by a coalition of six civil society groups seeking information on how $12.4 billion oil windfall of between 1988 and 1994 was spent.
The Plaintiffs are: Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP); Women Advocates and Documentation Centre (WARDC); Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR); Access to Justice (AJ); Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), and Partnership for Justice.
The suit was brought under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 by the groups’ lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In their separate preliminary objections filed last week before the court, the AGF and the CBN also argued that the plaintiffs had no locus standi; and were not juristic persons as they are not registered.
The CBN said the suit was not justiciable as it is not covered under the fundamental rights provisions of Sections 33-46 of the 1999 Constitution while the AGF argued that the affidavit in support of the suit was “not duly stamped.”
Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP Executive Director, however, said: “We strongly reject the objections raised by both the AGF and the CBN. We are finalising a reply, which we will file in court in due course.”
Earlier, the plaintiffs in their suit had averred that: “In 1994, the Federal Government set up the Pius Okigbo Panel to investigate the activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria and recommend measures for the re-organisation of the bank.
In the course of its assignment, the Okigbo Panel found that the $12.5 billion in the Dedicated and Special Accounts had been depleted to $200 million by June 1994. As a result of the alleged mismanagement of the said $12.2 billion by the military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, the Okigbo Panel recommended that the Dedicated and Special Accounts be discontinued.”
The Plaintiffs are seeking an order of Mandamus compelling the respondents individually and/or collectively to publish detailed statement of account relating to the spending of $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994, and to publish in major national newspapers a copy of the statement of account.