Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday dismissed a suit instituted by a number of civil society groups to probe the $ 12.4 billion that accrued to Nigeria from the sale of crude oil between 1988 and 1992 as well as during the Gulf war when the price of crude oil rose considerably. The Attorney General of the Federation and the Central Bank of Nigeria were joined as defendants while the plaintiffs sought the publication of the report of the Pius Okigbo panel which probed the spending of the money and allegedly indicted the then military ruler, Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
The Federal Government had however argued that the Okigbo Panel Report was missing and that the report could only be demanded by the Attorney General of the Federation. It also argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter. The Attorney General, Bello Adoke had filed a motion seeking the disqualification of the claimants because they lack the authority to question how the funds were disbursed.
While delivering his judgment, Justice Kolawole pointed out that the plaintiffs do not have the locus standi to institute the case. He also stated that the Socio-Economic and Accountability Project failed to prove the existence of consolidated and special accounts in the Central Bank of Nigeria into which the proceeds from the said sale of oil was paid. The judge also said they failed to prove how the existence of such a consolidated account in the Central Bank infringed on their fundamental human rights.
The judge also stated that the civil society groups failed to tender the Okigbo Panel Report in evidence and therefore merely relied on “uncertified photocopies” of a magazine’s report of the contents of the Panel’s report.
The judge praised the plaintiffs for their effort and described them as “patriotic Nigerians” who should not be seen as busy bodies.