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SERAP Drags Tinubu to Court over alleged missing $3.4bn IMF loan

SERAP

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has filed a lawsuit against President Bola Tinubu over “the failure to probe the grim allegations that $3.4 billion loan obtained by Nigeria from the International Monetary Fund to finance the budget and respond to COVID-19 is missing, diverted or unaccounted for.”

The allegations are contained in the recently published 2020 Nigeria’s annual audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/269/2024 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is asking the court “to direct and compel President Tinubu to probe the allegations that $3.4 billion loan obtained by Nigeria from the IMF to finance the budget and respond to COVID-19 is missing, diverted or unaccounted for.”

SERAP is also seeking, “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to ensure the effective prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible for the alleged mismanagement and diversion of the $3.4 billion IMF loan obtained by Nigeria to finance the budget and respond to the COVID- 19 pandemic.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to ensure the full recovery of the missing $3.4 billion IMF loan obtained by Nigeria to finance the budget and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “Investigating these grave allegations, bringing suspected perpetrators to justice, and recovering any missing IMF loan would contribute to addressing the country’s economic crisis and debt burden.”

SERAP also argued that “The findings by the Auditor-General suggest a grave violation of the public trust, the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], national anticorruption laws, and the country’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption.”

According to SERAP, “Servicing IMF loan that is allegedly missing, diverted or unaccounted for is double jeopardy for Nigerians—they can neither see nor benefit from the projects for which the loan was approved; yet, they are made to pay back both the loan and accrued interests.”

SERAP also stressed that “Unless the President is directed and compelled to get to the bottom of these damning revelations, suspected perpetrators would continue to enjoy impunity for their crimes and enjoy the fruits of their crimes.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, read in part: “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations. Granting the reliefs sought would end the impunity of perpetrators and ensure justice for victims of corruption.”

“Granting the reliefs sought would facilitate the effective implementation of the recommendations by the Auditor-General in the 2020 annual report that the missing $3.4 billion IMF loan be fully recovered and remitted to the public treasury and those responsible be ‘sanctioned and handed over to anticorruption agencies.’”

“The allegations of corruption in the spending of IMF loan documented by the Auditor-General undermine economic development of the country, trap the majority of Nigerians in poverty and deprive them of opportunities.”

“According to the 2020 annual audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation published last week, the US$3.4 billion emergency financial assistance obtained from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finance the budget and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic is missing, diverted, or unaccounted for.”

“According to the Auditor-General, no information or document was provided to justify the movement and spending of the Fund.”

“The Auditor-General has recommended that the money should be fully recovered and remitted to the public treasury and for the evidence of remittance to be forwarded to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly.”

“The Auditor-General has also recommended that anyone suspected to be involved should be ‘sanctioned and handed over to the EFCC and ICPC for investigation and prosecution, as provided for in paragraph 3112 of the Financial Regulations’.”

“According to SERAP’s information, Nigeria has signed an agreement to spread the repayment of the IMF loan/interests from 2023 to 2027. The first instalment, due in 2023, is worth $497.17 million. The second instalment, due in 2024, will be worth $1.76 billion. The third instalment, due in 2025, will be worth $865.27 million.”

“The final two instalments, due in 2026 and 2027, will each be worth $33.99 million. These instalments will only be interest payments.”

“Impunity for corruption in the management of loans obtained by Nigeria will continue as long as high-ranking public officials go largely unpunished for their alleged crimes.”

“The consequences of corruption are felt by citizens on a daily basis. Corruption exposes them to additional costs to pay for health, education and administrative services.”

“The Nigerian government has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s loans including those obtained from the IMF are transparently and accountably used solely for the purposes for which the loans are obtained, and for the effective development of public goods and services as well as the general public interests.”

“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] imposes clear responsibility on the Nigerian government to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the obligations on the government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.”

“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, the Nigerian government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’”

“Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’”

“Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on the Nigerian government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds including loans obtained by the country, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.”

“The UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party obligates the Nigerian government to effectively prevent and investigate allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds including loans obtained by the country.”

“Specifically, article 26 of the UN convention requires the Nigerian government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ including criminal and non-criminal sanctions, in cases of grand corruption.”

“Article 26 complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that sanctions must take into account the gravity of the corruption allegations.”

Joined in the suit as Respondent is Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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