Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has called on President Bola Tinubu to probe the whereabouts of the $3.4bn loan obtained in 2020 by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari from the International Monetary Fund.
SERAP urged Tinubu “to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly probe the allegations that the IMF loan is missing, diverted or unaccounted for.”
According to SERAP, 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”.
In a letter dated February 3, 2024 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP noted that the Auditor-General was alleged to have declared that, “no information or document was provided to justify the movement and spending of the fund”.
SERAP also urged the President 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, the organisation quoted the Auditor-General as having recommended 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 group 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.”
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.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven 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 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.
“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 organisation recalled that Nigeria was expected to spread the payment of the IMF loan from 2023 to 2027; sayiing “the first instalment, due in 2023, is worth $497.17m; the second instalment, due in 2024, will be worth $1.76bn, and the third instalment, due in 2025, will be worth $865.27m.”
It added that the final two instalments, due in 2026 and 2027, will each be worth $33.99bn, being the interest payments.
“Investigating the allegations and naming and shaming and prosecuting those suspected to be responsible for the missing IMF loan would serve the public interest and end the impunity of perpetrators.
“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.”
In April 2020, The PUNCH reported that the Federal Government promised to make “judicious use” of the $3.4bn loan.
Former Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, had said: “We appreciate the IMF for its timely response meant to assist us to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our human population. Nigeria will certainly make judicious use and prudent management of the facility.”