SERAP Approaches Court For Order On Tinubu To Probe Missing $3.4Billion IMF Loan

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A Federal High Court in Abuja was recently approached by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a bid to secure an order to compel President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to investigate the missing $3.4 billion loan.

The rights organisation noted that the said loan was obtained from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to finance the budget and respond to COVID-19.

SERAP is also asking the court for 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 loan.

The civil society group in the suit, which is yet to be assigned to a judge, is further praying the court for an order of mandamus to direct and compel the President to ensure the full recovery of the money.

SERAP claimed it instituted the suit because the Federal Government had failed to investigate the allegations that funds were unaccounted for, or diverted.

It stated that the allegations of the missing public funds were contained in the recently published 2020 Nigeria’s annual audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.

The respondent in the suit is Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN.

In an affidavit attached to the suit, SERAP averred 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.

The applicant also argued that the findings by the Auditor-General suggested a grave violation of the public trust, the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), national anti-corruption laws, and the country’s obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption.

SERAP further stated that if the government continued to service the IMF loan that is allegedly missing, diverted or unaccounted for, it was a double jeopardy for Nigerians, who could neither see nor benefit from the projects for which the loan was approved but who are made to repay the loan and its accrued interests.

The applicant maintained that unless the President was directed and compelled to get to the bottom of these damning revelations, suspected perpetrators would continue to enjoy impunity and enjoy the fruits of their crimes.

The organisation also insisted that there was a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations and that if the court should grant the reliefs sought, it would end the impunity of perpetrators and ensure justice for victims of corruption.

SERAP further submited that granting the sought 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 anti-corruption agencies’.

Stated SERAP: “The allegations of corruption in the spending of IMF loans 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 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 daily. Corruption exposes them to additional costs 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”.

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