The accusation and counter-accusation between Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and former minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, took a different dimension yesterday with SERAP challenging the ex-minister to explain to Nigerians how over $5 billion recovered Abacha funds were spent under her watch.
SERAP in a statement signed by the executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the accusation of political agenda levelled against it by the immediate past coordinating minister of the economy and minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is nothing but a mere distraction.
SERAP said the issue of how over $5billion recovered Abacha funds were spent under her watch deserves serious attention, lamenting that rather than explain to Nigerians, the ex-minister embarked on a campaign of calumny against the organisation.
“By making unfounded allegations against SERAP, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala has provided little more than an unhelpful distraction, which can only serve to undermine genuine efforts to promote transparency and accountability in Nigeria, the country that she claims to love so dearly.
“As a public trust, SERAP has an important role to play in revealing the discrepancies between the World Bank documents and the clear lack of access of millions of Nigerians to quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, safe roads and regular electricity supply during the period covered by the documents.”
“If she truly loves Nigeria, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala should have come out to say exactly how the over $5 billion of Abacha loot was spent under her watch. Trying to dodge responsibility for the spending of our commonwealth or attacking SERAP that is trying to get to the bottom of what happened to the funds is a betrayal of that love. Mrs Okonjo-Iweala should not be immune from accountability for what happened to Abacha recovered loot just because she is no longer in government.
“If the aim of these allegations is to bully us into stopping our work to seek accountability on the spending of over $5 billion recovered Abacha loot, then it has failed, as SERAP will never back down in its pursuit of justice in the face of such attack,” SERAP said.
According to the group, the new allegations echo those that Okonjo-Iweala made against them in March to divert attention from SERAP freedom of information suit on the spending of N30 trillion by the former government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“SERAP has fully responded to these allegations. SERAP’s credibility is exemplified by the fact of several awards it has received nationally and internationally including nomination for the UN civil society award in 2008; nomination for the Ford Foundation Jubilee Transparency Award for 2011, and the Wole Soyinka Anti-Corruption Defender Award SERAP received in 2014.
“As we continue to study the documents received from the World Bank, we have identified 11 questions that Nigerians would like Mrs Okonjo-Iweala to answer as a matter of priority.
“First, the World Bank confirmed that of the 51 projects reviewed, 23 were described as “completed”, 26 were at various stages of completion, and 2 were described as “abandoned”. Nigerians would like Mrs Okonjo-Iweala to show us evidence of the 23 projects allegedly completed, and whether the 26 projects where actually completed; and what became of the 2 abandoned projects.