Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a presidential panel of enquiry to investigate the operations of illegal oil pipelines from 2001 to date and to widely publish the names of anyone suspected to be involved.
SERAP asked the president to order appropriate anti-corruption agencies to prosecute anyone suspected to be responsible for the plundering of the country’s oil wealth and ensure the full recovery of any proceeds of crime.
The civil society organisation, which made the demands in an open letter dated October 15, 2022 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, gave the federal government a 14 days ultimatum to commence actions on its demands or face legal action.
SERAP demanded President Buhari to promptly authorise the investigation of reports of the destruction of an oil bunkering vessel by security agencies and to ensure that suspected owners of the vessel are identified, named and brought to justice.
The organisation also argued in the letter that poor and socio-economically vulnerable Nigerians have continued to pay the price for the stealing of the country’s oil wealth apparently by both state and non-state actors.
It said the federal government has a legal obligation to ensure that Nigeria’s oil wealth is used solely for the benefit of the Nigerian people, and that the wealth does not end up in private pockets, for the sake of the present and future generations.
The civil society organisation insisted that despite the country’s substantial oil wealth, successive governments have largely squandered the opportunity to use the wealth to improve the lives and well-being of ordinary Nigerians and that this is a clear violation of the government’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations.
SERAP also stated that it would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, warning that if it did not hear from the government by then, it shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the government to comply with their request in the public interest.
The letter, reads in part: “SERAP urges you to consider referring the reports to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [ICC] to investigate whether the allegations of oil theft in the country amount to crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC, and to surrender all suspected perpetrators for trial by the ICC.
“SERAP is concerned that the illegal pipelines have been operated for many years without notice, implying a flagrant violation of constitutional and international obligations to ensure the proper, effective and efficient management of the country’s wealth and natural resources.
“It is in the public interest to promptly investigate the discovery of the illegal pipelines, publish the names of those suspected to be involved, and ensure that they are brought to justice, and that any proceeds of crime are fully recovered.
“Taking these steps would advance the right of Nigerians to restitution, compensation and guarantee of non-repetition and improve public confidence in the fight against corruption and related crimes, especially in the oil sector,” SERAP stated.