A group calling itself Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in Nigeria has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari “over his failure to probe allegations that over 11 trillion Naira (US$26,477,000,000) meant to provide regular electricity supply since 1999 may have been stolen, mismanaged or diverted into private pockets.”
Despite huge investments into the West African nation’s power sector over the years, there appears to be no improvement yet as the country’s grid has reportedly collapsed, at least, three times in five months, and 130 times in seven years, plunging the nation into darkness on many occasions.
According to the World Bank, epileptic power supply costs businesses in Nigeria about $29 billion yearly.
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.”
The group 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.”
“It is in the public interest to ensure justice and accountability for alleged corruption and mismanagement in the electricity sector, which has failed governments to solve Nigeria’s perennial power problem,” it argued.
According to SERAP, “The staggering amounts of public funds alleged to have been stolen over the years in the sector have had catastrophic effects on the lives of millions of Nigerians, akin to crimes against humanity against the Nigerian people.
“The failure to trace, find and recover the missing electricity fund is antithetical to the public interest, the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], and the country’s international obligations.”
They further argue that “Nigerians have, for far too long, been denied justice and the opportunity to get to the bottom of why they continue to pay the price for corruption in the electricity sector–staying in darkness but still made to pay crazy electricity bills.”
They are of the view that “investigating the allegations of the missing N11 trillion electricity funds, prosecuting suspected perpetrators and recovering any missing public funds would end a culture of impunity. It would also address the persistent collapse of the electricity grid, and improve access to and affordability of electricity in the country.
“Corruption in the electricity sector and the lack of transparency and accountability in the use of public funds to support the operations of DISCOS have resulted in regular blackouts, electricity grid collapse, and unlawful hike in electricity tariffs.”
SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to refer to the International Criminal Court all unimplemented reports of corruption in the electricity sector gathering dust on the shelves, and to arrest and surrender those named in the reports to the court for prosecution.”
Joined in the suit as Respondent is Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for 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.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.