Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari to set up a presidential panel of enquiry to probe allegations that over 149 million barrels of crude oil were missing, as documented in the 2019 reports by the Auditor General of the Federation and Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
SERAP also urged him to ensure prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible for plundering the country’s oil wealth and make full recovery of any proceeds of crime.
This was contained in a letter, dated April 22, 2023 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare. The letter , : “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these very serious all in parts: egations. The recommended steps can be taken between now and the end of your term of office to set the tone for the next administration.”
SERAP recalled that Buhari had repeatedly promised to combat corruption.
“Investigating the allegations and naming and shaming and prosecuting those suspected to be responsible for the missing crude oil would serve the public interest and end the impunity of perpetrators.
“The allegations by both the Auditor-General and NEITI are different from a whistleblower’s claims that 48 million barrels of Bonny Light crude oil allegedly sold in China in 2015 are missing or unaccounted for,” SERAP said.
It added that the reports by the Auditor-General and NEITI suggest a grave violation of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), and the country’s anti-corruption laws and international obligations, as well as public trust.
SERAP said: “These damning revelations also suggest your government is failing to prevent and combat the plundering of Nigeria’s wealth and natural resources, name and bring suspected perpetrators to account, and recover any proceeds of crime.
“Poor and socio-economically vulnerable Nigerians have continued to pay the price for stealing of the country’s oil wealth, apparently by both state and non-state actors. The country’s oil wealth ought to be used solely for the benefit of the Nigerian people, and for the sake of the current and future generations.
“These allegations can promptly be investigated and suspected perpetrators named and shamed. Taking these steps would advance the right of Nigerians to restitution, compensation; guarantee non-repetition and improve public confidence in the fight against corruption, and related crimes, especially in the oil sector.”
The proposed panel, SERAP said, should be headed by a retired justice of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal, and its members should include people with proven professional records, and of the highest integrity that can act impartially, independently, and transparently.
Recall that the 2019 audited report by Auditor General, Andrew Ogochukwu Onwudili, disclosed that over 107 million barrels of crude oil were lifted as domestic crude without any document or tracing. NEITI also reported missing 42.25 million barrels of crude oil in 2019.