The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has lambasted a civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, for instituting a lawsuit against her over the claim by a former Central Bank governor, Chukwuma Soludo, that Nigeria has lost as much as N30 trillion to corruption and mismanagement.
Apart from describing the suit as spurious, the Minster said it was “the latest in the campaign of falsehood and politicization of the economy by persons and groups who are getting more desperate by the day, because the economy, despite their propaganda, was still standing and will continue to stand”.
SERAP had instituted the case against the Minister for “failure to provide information about spending of the alleged missing N30trillion”, which the group said represented “some accruable income to the Federal Government in the past four years”.
The suit, filed at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, followed a Freedom of Information request by the civil society group to the Minister dated February 2.
SERAP’s suit followed the disclosure by Mr. Soludo in an article that over N30trillion was missing, or stolen, or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged under the minister’s watch.
As trustee of public funds, SERAP said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has a legal duty to render account on the missing trillion to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so.
So far, the group noted, she has “failed, refused and/or neglected to provide the Plaintiff with the details of the information requested”.
By virtue of Section 1(1) of the FOI Act 2011, the Plaintiff is entitled as of right to request for, or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution. By the provisions of Section 2(7) and 31 of the FOI Act 2011, the Defendant is a public official.”
But, the Minister in her reaction through a statement on Tuesday by her spokesperson, Paul Nwabuikwu, said the group had brought “a politically motivated suit” against her “based on the discredited N30 trillion allegation by Professor Charles Soludo”.
Characteristically, the minister’s statement was unsparing of the civil society group with a heavy dose of tongue lashing, saying the suit “confirms that SERAP is nothing but a political tool of the opposition hiding behind the façade of advocacy”.
“Like their previous efforts, this latest one will fail because Nigerians can see through their antics. We look forward to meeting SERAP in court,” the statement declared.