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Probe missing $3.4 billion IMF loan, SERAP tells Tinubu

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Probe missing $3.4 billion IMF loan, SERAP tells Tinubu

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Tinubu “to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly probe the allegations that $3.4 billion loan obtained from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is missing, diverted or unaccounted for.”

The 2020 annual audited report published last week by the Auditor-General of the Federation documents damning revelations including that there was no document to show the movement and spending of the IMF loan.

SERAP also urged him to ensure that, “anyone suspected to be responsible should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any missing IMF loan should be fully recovered and returned to the public treasury.”

In the letter dated 3 February 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for these serious allegations. Taking these important measures would end the impunity of perpetrators.”

SERAP said: “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 both the loan and accrued interests.”

According to SERAP, “Any failure to investigate these grave allegations, bring suspected perpetrators to justice and recover any missing IMF loan would have serious resource allocation and exacerbate the country’s debt burden.”

The letter reads In part: “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.

“The Auditor-General recommends that the money be fully recovered and remitted to the public treasury and those suspected to be involved ‘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.

“The allegations suggest a grave violation of the public trust, the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the country’s anticorruption legislation and international anticorruption obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption.”

“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 manage the health crisis stemming from the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic may have been missing, diverted or unaccounted for.

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

“The Auditor-General wants the money 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 also recommends 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 reports, Nigeria is expected to spread the payment of the IMF loan 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.

“Investigating the allegations and naming and shaming and prosecuting those suspected to be responsible for the missing IMF would serve the public interest and end the impunity of perpetrators.

“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. It is by pursuing these allegations and taking the evidence before the court that the truth will be revealed and justice best served.

“SERAP notes that 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.

“SERAP notes that your 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.

“This implies providing strong leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption, and to refer to appropriate anticorruption agencies any allegations of corruption in which any officials and agencies of government may be involved or complicit.

“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution 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’ in the country.

“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.’

“Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on your 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 obligate your 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 your 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.”

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