$12.4B OIL WINDFALL: Court’s Judgment Stalled

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Hope for a definite legal pronouncement on the controversial Okigbo Panel Report, was today dashed by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja

This followed the court’s declaration that judgment in the case instituted by Registered Trustees of Socio – Economic and Accountability Project, SERAP, and two other rights and development-based NGOs seeking for the publication of the Okigbo Panel Report, was not ready to be delivered.

The non government organisations had dragged the Attorney General of the Federation and the Central Bank of Nigeria before the court over the much publicised 12.4 billion US Dollars oil windfall which the country generated between 1988 and 1994 while former Military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida was in power.

The group asked the court to make an order compelling the apex bank and the Attorney General of the Federation to publish detailed account, relating to the spending of the funds between 1988 and 1994. They also sought for an order of the court compelling the chief law officer of the nation and the apex bank to diligently and effectively bring to justice anyone suspected of corruption and mismanagement of the 12.4 billion dollars oil windfall.

The Okigbo Panel was set up by the Federal Government in 1994 to investigate the activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria and recommend measures for the re organisation of the apex bank. In the course of its assignment, the panel discovered that the 12.5 billion US dollars in the Dedicated and Special Accounts had been depleted to a mere 200 million US Dollars by June of 1994.

As a result of the mismanagement of the money by the military regime of Gen. Babangida, the panel recommended that the Dedicated and Special Accounts be discontinued and that the apex bank re-organised.

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As a result of persistent calls by patriotic Nigerians for the recovery of the missing funds and the prosecution of those who diverted and mismanaged the money, the Federal Government started playing games, tactics and claimed that the report of the panel was missing.

It was on the basis of this that the NGOs went to the court to compel the apex bank and the Attorney General to publish the report of the panel and prosecute those involved on frittering away the nation’s commonwealth.

At the scheduled delivering of the judgment in the suit, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said the judgment was not yet ready to be delivered.

According to the judge, “Judgment is not yet ready. I have to give priority to criminal cases which are very important. I have a backlog of judgments which are older than this case. I regret the delay.”

He subsequently adjourned till 21 October to deliver the judgment.

—Nnamdi Felix / Abuja

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