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Oil windfall: SGF shuns court

Posted by By Tony Amokeodo on 2006/11/10 | Views: 738 |

Oil windfall: SGF shuns court

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, on Thursday failed to appear before a Federal High Court in Lagos, over a case on Nigerias 1991 Gulf War oil windfall.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, on Thursday failed to appear before a Federal High Court in Lagos, over a case on Nigerias 1991 Gulf War oil windfall.

In the suit, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, wants Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the then military president to give account of how his administration spent the $12.4bn oil revenue realised by the country during the war.

The court had in a letter, dated November 6, 2006, summoned Ekaette to appear as a witness in the suit filed in 1992 by Fawehinmi.

The SGF was also directed to produce the Pius Okigbo Panel Investigation Report on the Reorganisation and Reform of the Central Bank of Nigeria 1994.

The controversial $12.4bn formed part of the report on the CBN reform.

At the hearing of the matter on Thursday, counsel for Fawehinmi, Mr. Ugwuzor Adindu, told presiding Justice Dan Abutu that he was surprised that Ekaette was not in court.

Our correspondent also observed that no lawyer represented the SGF during the proceedings.

Adindu added that the development was strange because a court bailiff was sent to Abuja to personally serve Ekaette with the court process.

He also told the judge that there was an evidence that Ekaette received the subpoena.

He said, Ekaette was a member of the Okigbo Panel and he is now the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

We want him to produce the report. But since he is not here, we have to give him a second chance.

Abutu consequently adjourned the matter till January 25, 2007 for trial.

But the Office of the SGF denied on Thursday that the court process was served on Ekaette.

A statement by the Director of Press, SGF Office, Mr. Eric Teniola, read, We wish to state that the Secretary to the SGF has not received any subpoena from the court on any subject whatsoever.

Besides, the SGF was not the secretary of the panel on the Reorganisation and Reform of the CBN as alleged.

The person, who was the secretary of that panel is still alive and could be contacted.

Apart from Babangida, other respondents to the suit are a former Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Prof Jubril Aminu; a former CBN Governor, Alhaji Abdulkadir Ahmed; the Auditor-General of the Federation; and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

Fawehinmi is seeking the following prayers from the court:

- An account of all export earnings by Nigeria from the sale of crude oil during the Gulf crisis, particularly between August and December 31, 1991, and or the manner in which the defendants applied and or expended, the said earnings;

- An inquiry on how the earnings by Nigeria during the Gulf crisis were disbursed; and

- Any other order that the court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

Fawehinmi had also alleged in a 27-paragraph statement of claim that:

- In 1991, oil prices rose to as much as $34 per barrel due to the Gulf War;

- From August 1991 to December 1991, Nigeria earned about $12.4bn but till date, the defendants have never made public, the actual amount realised during the said war;

- The defendants did all they could to suppress information concerning the amount realised from the sale of crude oil between August to December 1991 as clearly demonstrated by the case of David Keeling, a British journalist with the Financial Times.

Fawehinmi said Keeling had observed that there was a corresponding rise in governments recorded income during the period of unprecedented oil boom. But he was deported from Nigeria by the Babangida administration.

- The Okigbo panel report exposed the outrageous and fraudulent malpractice perpetrated by the defendants;

- Babangida was a law unto himself, who used and manipulated Aminu, Ahmed, Auditor-General of the Federation and the NNPC to serve his selfish interest;

- Since Babangida was accountable to no one else but himself, he should explain his role in this unprecedented looting of state resources;

- The probe panel reported that between September 1988 and June 30, 1994, $12.4bn was recorded by Nigeria but was squandered in less than six years;

- The disbursements of the sum were clandestinely done while the country was openly reeling with a crushing external debt; and

- Had the $12.4bn, or even only a significant portion, been paid into the external reserves, the impact on the naira/dollar exchange rate would have been incalculable.

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