By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has sued President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration over failure to probe N1.48 trillion allegedly spent on maintaining the country’s four refineries between 2015 and 2020 believed to have been stolen, mismanaged or diverted into private pockets.
Joined in the suit as Respondent is Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The government reportedly spent N10.23 billion in June 2020 on three refineries that processed zero crude. Also in 2021, the government approved $1.5 billion (about N600 billion) to repair the Port Harcourt refinery. Despite the huge spending, the refineries are still not working while fuel scarcity persists.
In the suit filed last week at the Federal High Court, Lagos by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo, SERAP is seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to investigate the spending on Nigeria’s refineries, and alleged mismanagement of public funds budgeted for maintaining the refineries since 1999.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to ensure the prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible for the importation and distribution of dirty fuel into Nigeria, and to identify and ensure access to justice and effective remedies to affected victims.
“An order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to instruct appropriate anti-corruption agencies to jointly track and monitor the spending of public funds to rehabilitate, operate, and maintain Nigeria’s refineries.”
The filed suit read in part: “Nigeria has made legally binding commitments under the UN Convention against Corruption to ensure accountability in the management of public resources. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.
“Directing and compelling President Buhari to probe allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the money meant to repair the country’s refineries would advance the rights of victims of corruption to restitution, compensation and guarantee of non-repetition.
“Combating the corruption epidemic in the oil sector would alleviate poverty, improve access of Nigerians to basic public goods and services, and enhance the ability of the government to meet its human rights and anti-corruption obligations.
“High-ranking public officials, including officers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited suspected of complicity in the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, and the importation and distribution of adulterated fuel have continued to enjoy impunity.
“According to reports, petroleum products with methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specification were recently imported into the country.
“NNPC reportedly stated that the methanol-blended petrol was imported into the country by a few suppliers through four premium motor spirit cargoes under its Direct Sales Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement.
“According to reports, for every 200 litres of the adulterated product, 800 litres of petrol with good quality would be required for the blending to be done.
“According to reports, the government spends over N264 billion annually to operate and maintain the country’s refineries. Successive governments have reportedly spent trillions of Naira to rehabilitate, operate and maintain the refineries that have produced little or no fuel.
“The government reportedly spent $396 million for maintenance of the country’s refineries between 2015 and 2020 alone. Despite this huge spending, millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to full and unhindered supply of fuel.
“About N82.82 billion was reportedly spent in 2015; N78.95 billion in 2016; N604.127 billion in 2017; N426.66 billion in 2019; N218.18 billion in 2019, and N64.534 billion expenditure was recorded from January to June 2020.”
However, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.