Soludo: Group Asks Okonjo-Iweala To Account For Missing N30 Trillion Or Face Legal ActionFeatured, Latest News, News Monday, February 2nd, 2015
Right group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has issued 14-day ultimatum to Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to account for alleged missing N30 trillion or face court action.
The group asked her to urgently provide information about spending of the alleged missing N30 trillion, which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government in the past four years.
SERAP’s request followed disclosure by the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo that over N30 trillion had been missing, or stolen, or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged under the minister’s watch.
The organization threatened to “take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel” the minister to comply with the request if “the information is not provided to us within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”
In the letter of request dated 2 February, 2015 and signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization, said that, as trustee of public funds, “SERAP contends that your Ministry has a legal duty to render account on the missing N30tn to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so.”
“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 anticorruption agencies any allegations of corruption in which any agencies of government may be involved or officials of your Ministry may be complicit,” the organization also said.
The organization also expressed serious concerns that the stealing or mismanagement of such a large sum of public funds might be responsible for the economic crisis and attendant hardships being faced by millions of Nigerians in terms of persistent lack of enjoyment of their legally recognized economic and social rights such as the rights to education, to adequate healthcare, to adequate food, and access to clean and portable water.
“SERAP considers this a serious allegation that requires your immediate and urgent clarifications. If true, such allegation will clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anti-corruption laws and the country’s international anticorruption obligations and commitments including under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.
“Any failure or refusal to render account on the missing N30tn will also be clearly inconsistent with the attitude of a government that has repeatedly expressed commitment to the fight against corruption, and in fact signed the Freedom of Information Act,” the organization said.
“Therefore, it is necessary to provide clarity as to what exactly happened to the missing N30tn if the Ministry of Finance is to continue to play a leadership role in the transparent and accountable management of the country’s resources and wealth, and to enjoy the public trust and confidence essential for the Ministry’s effectiveness and impact,” it added.
SERAP requested the minister to “provide detailed information on the spending of missing N30tn, that presumably represents income or return accruing to or derived by the government of the Federation from any source, including: a) any receipt, however described, arising from the operation of any law; b) any return, however described, arising from or in respect of any property held by the Government of the Federation; c) 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.”
“This information should cover the past four years of your role as Ministry of Finance and Coordinating Minister under the President Goodluck Jonathan government. By virtue of Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the alleged missing N30tn under your watch, and the said information is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution,” it said.
“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 organization also said.
According to SERAP, “The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. 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 concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.”
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