SOCIO-ECONOMIC Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari “over his failure to probe allegations that over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply since 1999 may have been stolen, mismanaged or diverted into private pockets.”
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1119/2022 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to investigate how over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply has been allegedly squandered by governments since 1999.”SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to ensure the prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible for the missing electricity fund, as appropriate, and to ensure the tracing and full recovery of any missing public funds.
Joined in the suit as respondent is Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
The suit, filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “Nigeria has made legally binding commitments under the UN Convention against corruption to ensure accountability in the management of public resources. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.
“Corruption in the electricity sector has also continued to disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of the population who cannot readily afford expensive generators in order to have a reliable power supply.
“The failure of successive governments and high-ranking government officials to prevent corruption in the electricity sector and to bring suspected perpetrators to justice is the primary cause of the persistent crisis in the electricity sector, including the exploitation of electricity consumers, and collapse of the electricity grid.
“The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has adjudged the failure of the states to provide basic services such as electricity as violating the right to health.
“Citizens are frustrated at persistent allegations of corruption in the sector, and the impacts on their human rights. Prosecuting perpetrators would address the grave travesty that has for many years occurred in the power sector.
“Impunity for corruption in the electricity sector has for many years forced ordinary Nigerians to stay in darkness, but still made to pay crazy electricity bills.
“Successive governments have failed to increase power generation and provide Nigerians with regular and uninterrupted electricity supply, with many electricity contracts shrouded in secrecy, and trillions of Naira going down the drain.
“Impunity for corruption in the electricity sector will continue as long as high-ranking public officials go largely unpunished for their alleged crimes.
“The Buhari administration has legal obligations under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power, and article 26 of the UN Convention against Corruption to ensure effective prosecution of allegations of corruption.
“Alleged corruption and mismanagement in the electricity sector and the repeated collapse of the electricity grid have continued to deprive Nigerians of economic opportunities, subjecting them to cruel and degrading treatment
“Under Section 16(1) of the constitution, the 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.’
“The failure by successive governments to tell Nigerians the truth about allegations of corruption in the power sector amounts to a failure to ensure that electricity services are progressively made available, on the basis of equality and non-discrimination.
“The details of the missing N11 trillion electricity funds are contained in a SERAP report titled: From Darkness to Darkness: How Nigerians are paying the Price for Corruption in the Electricity Sector.
“According to the report, the total estimated financial loss to Nigeria from corruption in the electricity sector starting from the return to democracy in 1999 to date is over N11 trillion. This represents public funds, private equity and social investment (or divestments) in the power sector.
“It is estimated that the loss may reach over N20 trillion in the next decade given the rate of Government investment and funding in the power sector amidst dwindling fortune and recurrent revenue shortfalls.” No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.