The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to commence investigations into the spending on the country’s four refineries, failure of which will make the group launch legal action against the President.
In a letter addressed to the President and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SERAP urged Buhari to direct the appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe the mismanagement of public funds budgeted for the rehabilitation, operation, and maintenance of the refineries since 1999.
According to the letter signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, the SERAP's Deputy Director, the group noted that anyone found culpable in the investigations should be prosecuted.
With regards to the current fuel crisis, SERAP urged President Buhari to direct Malami and the anti-corruption agencies to bring to justice anyone found culpable in the importation and distribution of dirty fuel into the country, and to urgently identify and ensure access to justice and effective remedies to affected victims.
The organisation added: “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for alleged corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector and the resulting importation and distribution of dirty fuel and protracted fuel scarcity in the country.
“The importation and distribution of dirty fuel and the current fuel scarcity across the country demonstrate the need for effective accountability measures to weed out, expose, and punish allegations of corruption in the sector, and to ensure justice and effective remedies for victims.
“Allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector have contributed to the importation and distribution of bad fuel, causing environmental problems and violating the human rights of many users, including to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment."
It further noted: “Investigating and prosecuting allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending on the refineries would be entirely consistent with constitutional guarantees and international standards. It may also galvanize public support for your government’s anti-corruption efforts.
“Alleged corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, the importation and distribution of dirty fuel, and protracted fuel scarcity amount to a fundamental breach of constitutional and international human rights obligations, depriving Nigerians of economic opportunities and subjecting them to cruel and degrading treatment.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“SERAP also urges you to instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the spending of public funds to rehabilitate, operate, and maintain the country’s refineries.
“SERAP is concerned that fuel scarcity in several parts of the country has subjected many Nigerians to harsh economic and social conditions, making them incapable of developing their abilities and realising their potential.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Nigerians will be put through severe economic conditions, which may amount to torture or cruel or degrading treatment or punishment.
“SERAP is concerned about the human rights impact of many years of alleged corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, the importation and distribution of dirty fuel, and protracted fuel scarcity, including the impact on the environment and harm to the many people whose vehicles were damaged as a result of adulterated fuel.
“The impunity of perpetrators has continued to expose Nigerians to a string of misfortunes: poor living conditions, ill-health, marginalisation, and an inability to enter into the life of society and assume responsibilities.
“Ensuring justice and accountability in the spending of public funds on refineries which have for many failed to ensure the availability of petrol and access of economically and socially vulnerable Nigerians to their own natural wealth and resources would serve the public interest.
“It would also be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office, and with your duty as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
“Ending impunity and ensuring access of victims to justice and effective remedies would contribute to preventing and combating corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector. It would also help to address the protracted problem of dirty fuel and fuel scarcity, as well as improve availability and access to fuel in the country.
“High-ranking public officials, including officers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited suspected of complicity in the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, and in the importation and distribution of adulterated fuel have continued to enjoy impunity.
“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] imposes clear responsibility on your government to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on your government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.
“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, your 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.
“Under article 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigerians have the ‘right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development.
“Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption impose legal obligations on your government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.
“SERAP also notes your oft-expressed commitment to give ‘the utmost priority to fighting corruption and other related offences in the country.
“According to reports, petroleum products with methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specification were recently imported into the country. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) reportedly stated that the methanol-blended petrol was imported into the country by a few suppliers through four premium motor spirit cargoes under its Direct Sales Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement.
“According to reports, for every 200 litres of the adulterated product, 800 litres of petrol with good quality would be required for the blending to be done. Millions of Nigerians are also currently witnessing fuel scarcity across the country. There has been a protracted problem of fuel scarcity under successive governments and under your government.
“Many Nigerians are queuing up at petrol stations to buy fuel to power their cars or generators, despite their right to natural wealth and resources, and other socio-economic rights.
“According to reports, the government spends over N264 billion annually to operate and maintain the country’s refineries. Successive governments have reportedly spent trillions of Naira to rehabilitate, operate and maintain the refineries that have produced little or no fuel.
“Your government reportedly spent $396 million for maintenance of the country’s refineries between 2015 and 2020 alone. Despite this huge spending, millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to a full and unhindered supply of fuel.
“About N82.82 billion was reportedly spent in 2015; N78.95 billion in 2016; N604.127 billion in 2017; N426.66 billion in 2019; N218.18 billion in 2019, and N64.534 billion expenditure was recorded from January to June 2020.”