Release of Okigbo and Oputa Reports


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Why Government Should Release the Okigbo and Oputa Reports

– A Question of Credibility -




Mobolaji Aluko

Burtonsville, MD, USA


April 25, 2004




In Nigeria’s forty-four years of flag independence – actually 482 months this April 2004 since October 1960 -  it has been ruled for approximately 126 months by civilians and 356 months by the military – a ratio of about 1:3.  This fact has led to serious structural defects,  made worse by two military-imposed constitutions.  Consequently, the country is still contending with many ills,  two of which stand out: corruption and impunity.  One affects our economic life, the other our social life. 


Inherent in any military regime is lack of a mandate for accountability by the citizens, since the military imposes its constitutional will on the people anyway. Nevertheless, under a civilian administration that we are currently under, no demand for accountability is too much.


There have been two significant attempts in the past to provide some measure of accountability:  these are supposed to have been documented in the Okigbo Panel Report of 1994, instituted during the Abacha regime, that details how our oil money was spent during a period 1985 - 1991;  and the Oputa Panel Report of 2002,  instituted under the current Obasanjo civilian administration, that details how our human rights were violated during the period 1966 - 1999.


Ironically, neither report has been made public:  in fact, the Okigbo report was recently declared “missing” from government archives, and as far as the Oputa report is concerned, the government has not indicated what it wishes to do with it.


So let me start where I should end:  If the Obasanjo administration is to enhance its credibility, it must unfurl both the Okigbo and the Oputa Reports  without further delay – for the world to know.  If corruption and impunity now and in the future are to be stemmed, both reports should be released.






In January/February 1979, the Iranian Revolution leading to the exile of the Shah Reza Pahlavi to the United States (where he eventually died) and the installation of Ayatollah Khomeini as spiritual leader of a revolutionary Iran shook the world.  From September 22, 1980 to August 20, 1988, neighbors Iran and Iraq (led by Saddam Hussein) then engaged in a devastating war which led to the death of hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of citizens of both Islamic countries.  Not done yet, on August 2, 1990,  Saddam’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, but on 28 February 1991, following a counter-attack by allies led by the United States and begun on January 16, 1991, Iraq had been defeated and pushed out of  Kuwait. 


Note that this theater of war Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, all within the Gulf region, are members of the 11-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).


As far as Nigeria is concerned, our country joined OPEC in July 1971.  Looking at Figure 1, the Arab boycott and its attendant oil price increase in 1973 suddenly made Nigeria to be awash in much oil money under military head of state General Yakubu Gowon (1 August 1966 – 29 July 1975).  International oil prices then rose through the regimes of Generals Murtala Mohammed (29 July 1975 – 13 February 1976) and Olusegun Obasanjo (13 February 1976 – 1 October 1979), and hit its peak during the civilian regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1 October 1979 to 31 December 1983).  Unfortunately, oil prices also fell dramatically during Shagari’s regime, precipitating a crisis that led to his deposition by General Muhammadu Buhari [31 December 1983 – 27 August 1985], who in turn was deposed by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida [27 August 1985 – 26 August 1993].  The regimes of Chief Ernest Sonekan (26 August 1993 – 17 November 17 1993),  General Abacha (17 November 1993 – 8 June 1998), and Abdusalami Abubakar (8 June 1998 – 29 May, 1999) were to follow.  We currently have as ruler-returnee former General but now Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (29 May 1999 to date; re-elected for second four-year term beginning May 29 2003),


Thus, the intense 12-year period  1979 – 1991 – the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf Iraq/Kuwait war -   that led to a significant increase in world oil prices in comparison with those up until the mid-70s (see Figure 1), with oil producing OPEC countries like Nigeria benefiting from so-called “oil windfalls” – saw at least four governments as beneficiaries, with Alhaji Shehu Shagari enjoying a particular spike in 1980/81 during the Iran/Iraq war, and General Babangida’s regime benefiting from the Gulf War windfall which had its peak a decade later, in 1990.  By convoluting Figures 1 and 2, an net average export amount  of 1,300,000 barrels per day, at an average of $20 per barrel for the years 1985 – 1991 would yield $66.43 billion for Nigeria.


FIGURE 1:  Crude Oil Prices Graph  []





           Figure 2:  Nigeria’s Net Oil Exports 1980 - 2002





On June 30 of 1991, one Financial Times journalist William Keeling was peremptorily deported from Nigeria by the Babangida regime for investigating and reporting about Gulf War Oil windfall corruption by Nigerian government, stating that a total receipt of about $12.2 billion – a mere one-fifth of projected sales during that period - was not properly accounted for.  Three years later, in early 1994, as part of his early moves to convince the nation of  a new broom of probity and accountability, General Sani Abacha empanelled a group of eminent Nigerians chaired by  the late economist Dr.  Pius Okigbo to probe the Gulf War period receipts.  The charge was simple:  give an account of monies spent.


This is how the charge was put in an November 2003 letter to President Obasanjo by Punch newspaper:





PUNCH Writes Obasanjo, Seeks Release Of Okigbo Panel Report


"As your Excellency presumably know, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, was the secretary of the Okigbo Panel set up in 1994 to investigate how the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida spent the extra oil earnings from the Gulf War in 1991."


PUNCH has written President Olusegun Obasanjo, as a last resort, to ask for a copy of the Pius Okigbo Panel report that probed how the $12.4 billion oil windfall which accrued to Nigeria during the 1991 Gulf war was spent.


In a letter dated November 5, 2003, the newspaper urged the President to facilitate the release of the report for publication. ……


The Okigbo Panel was set up, among other things, to recommend how to reform the Central Bank of Nigeria in the light of the way and manner the Gulf oil windfall was squandered.   The panel, inaugurated in late 1994 by Abacha, revealed how Babangida, in connivance with the top officials of the CBN, allegedly misappropriated the $12.4 billion extra revenue that came to the purse of the Federal Government as a result of the increases in the prices of oil on the international spot market occasioned by the Gulf war. In that war, the Allied Forces amassed troops in the Gulf to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, which it then occupied.


According to a summary of the report released by the Federal Government, the Okigbo panel said Babangida squandered the $12.4 billion oil windfall on clearly unproductive ventures.  Besides Babangida, the report also indicted the former military president's security chiefs and the former Governor of the CBN, Alhaji Abdulkadir Ahmed.   The report also frowned at the manner and method of disbursing the oil windfall through a "Dedicated Accounts."


According to the summary, the dedicated accounts, which consisted of NNPC sales of mining rights, signature bonds and stabilisation, received a total of $12.4 billion, out of which $12.2 billion was disbursed leaving a balance of $206.037 million.


The accounts were operated between 1988 and June 30, 1994. Okigbo, while identifying the lapses inherent in leaving Babangida and Ahmed to directly disburse the funds, said the operation of the accounts opened the floodgate for the diversion of public funds.


He also noted that the accounts were operated outside the national budgets and therefore not open to auditing.


The panel also criticised the way and manner the funds were spent, noting that they could have been put to better use, either to reduce the national's external debt stock or put in the external reserves so as to ease the pressure on the nation's currency, the naira, which was depreciating at the foreign exchange market.




The full report has NEVER seen the light of day, and has now been declared mysteriously “missing” from government records.  Even after ten years, questions about it keep being raised, particularly when new report or rumor is heard of Babangida’s ambition to return in 2007 to be a civilian leader. 


Early on in his civilian administration, Chief Obasanjo asked for “evidence” to be given to him of such corruption, and in fact implied that there was no such Gulf Oil corruption in Nigeria.  One got the feeling that Babangida, being an early highly-publicized promoter of Obasanjo’s presidential candidacy soon after his release from Abacha’s gulag, had become, in Obasanjo’s mind, a “sacred cow”, damage to whom might occur if disclosure the Okigbo report were to be pursued more vigorously.  After Punch’s recent letter to OBJ,  he declared inter alia that he would ask for the report from Okigbo’s widow,  to the consternation of  the poor Mrs. Okigbo who must still be mourning her beloved!  More recently, in the past few days to be exact,  OBJ has been reported to finally  agree that money was indeed squandered during the period – but how much was it really, who really did the squandering – and more importantly what happens next?


These are the questions that inquiring minds want to know.





On or around September  or October 1998, five of us all Nigerians had a private two-hour meeting with newly-released Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at a Washington DC Hotel.   That was his very first trip to the United States following his release from Abacha’s gulag in July 1998.   OBJ was not a declared presidential candidate yet, and in fact at church service that I attended  in his honor in Silver Spring, Maryland earlier that very day, he had vehemently declared (during a questions-and-answers period) that he had no such ambitions.


The late evening meeting had been set up by a mutual friend of mine, who had sought my help in getting a hold of Mr. Wole Soyinka, General Alani Akinrinade and a few others (Prof. Ladipo Adamolekun and Mr. Dapo Olorunyomi of the News completed the group) to visit with OBJ on his short trip to the US.  I obliged, having also had a long international “welcome back”  phone call with OBJ within weeks of his release.  My attempt to invite Chief Anthony Enahoro to that meeting was firmly rebuffed by the elder – and older - statesman. At that time, he saw no reason why he should be at such a meeting, and that in any case, OBJ knew (or could find out) where he was staying (humbly) still in exile at that time  in Virginia across the bridge from DC.


The meeting quickly turned to the issue of a Sovereign National Conference, with all but OBJ in support of it.  I don’t even know why we thought it necessary to convince the man,  but anyway we stated that the SNC was both a reconciliation concept as well as a way to obtain a true constitution drawn up by the people.  Obasanjo suddenly lit up on the reconciliation aspect of it, likening it to the South African example, and invited us to consider a two-step process – a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and if that goes well, maybe a National Conference, but not sovereign.


The day being already quite late, I guess we all agreed that that might be a good idea, and left after being graciously attended to by then first wife now First Lady Mrs. Stella Obasanjo.


Whether he had thought of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concept before that meeting, and just made us think that we tweaked his consciousness about it,  or whether we actually did suggest it to him for the first time, we will never know – but there it is, because on June 14, 1999, just two weeks after his inauguration on May 29, 1999 as president,  Obasanjo announced a  seven-person commission grandiosely called the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC) headed by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa – or the Oputa Panel for short – to investigate human rights abuses  dating back to the military coup of  January 15, 1966 till May 28, 1999, the day before the last military handover to civilians.  The Secretary of the Panel was the very well respected Reverend Father Mathew Kukah.  It did not begin formal hearings until October 23, 2000.


By the time it completed its sittings in  October 2001 -  at various times in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, and Enugu -  it had received over 11,000 submissions, of which it was only able to consider around two hundred, including numerous oral testimonies of killings, rape, and other abuses by the security forces against civilians.  Three former heads of state Abdulsalami Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida, and Muhammad Buhari refused the summons of the Oputa Panel, but Obasanjo gave testimony on September 11, 2001


There was some circus atmosphere surrounding some of the proceedings, but sessions held in public were gripping in many instances – chilling accounts of killings by security forces, corruption in high places, etc.


Ever since the report was submitted to President Obasanjo in May 21, 2002,  it has not been made public, nor has government found it appropriate to let the world know what it intends to do with the report that must have cost million of dollars to prepare, and millions of man-hours of panel members, panel officials and testifiers.   One would have expected that transcripts of the months and months of public hearings  detailing corruption and human rights abuses during the period would have been made available by now. This is despite the bold promise of one of the panel members Rev. Father Mathew Kukah who had previously indicated that




"we are determined to provide a popular version of our report, perhaps translated into different Nigerian languages, so that ordinary Nigerians have some kind of highway code on human rights. We want to make people know their rights as citizens and their rights before various security agencies that in the past became institutions of oppression."





So what happened?  So one of course knows that Babangida had been busy in court over  his isummons in respect to the 1986 Dele Giwa case:


(i)               getting a favorable ruling from a High Court (on 8 December 2000) “restraining the Commission from compelling them (i.e. IBB AND SOME MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEFS) to appear before it in Lagos on the grounds that their personal security would be at risk”;


(ii)              getting a favorable judgement from the Court of Appeals (on October 31, 2001) “that the  Oputa Panel cannot summon Babangida” “to give evidence on the allegation that he and his security chiefs had a hand in the murder” of Dele Giwa because “the law does not back the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (HRVIC).”    The Federal Government appealed to the Supreme Court.


(iii)            Getting a favorable judgement from the Supreme Court (on February 3, 2003),  that the panel had  “no powers to summon witnesses outside the Federal Capital Territory”, and further “that the 1999 Constitution made no provision for tribunals of inquiry.”


(iv)            Babangida is still currently before the Federal High Court (suit filed June 3, 2002) asking it  “to stop the president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, from implementing the report of the Oputa-led Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission” .  This suit was jointly file with and the former Director of Military Intelligence, Col. Halilu Akilu.


It is this last “sub judice” case that is being employed to delay the PUBLICATION of the report, but it only addresses IMPLEMENTATION!


So who is developing cold feet about publication here?  Who is protecting whom?


That is what inquiring minds want to know.






The Okigbo Panel Report exists somewhere in Nigeria, as testified to by the present Secretary to the Federal Government (Mr. Ufot Ekaette) who was also Secretary to that Panel.  The Oputa Panel Report is packaged in eight big volumes, and was handed over to President Obasanjo in broad daylight.


The Nigerian people therefore deserve – and desire – to know what are in those reports as paid for by their hard-earned naira, so as to stem the corruption and impunity that have impaired the quality of our lives.


I rest my case on their behalf.





STAR EDITORIAL: Punch's "The Missing Okigbo Report"

November 18, 2003

STAR RESPONSE:  "We’ll find Okigbo report, Obasanjo assures PUNCH"

November 20, 2003

STAR REVELATION:Okigbo panel report: President hasn’t contacted me“ - Okigbo’s widow

December 16, 2003

MONDAY QUARTER-BACKING:  Nigeria and Its Membership of OPEC

Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD; January 26, 2004

Nigeria to probe human rights

June 5, 1999

Nigeria extends human rights probe

BBC  October 6, 1999

“Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered the country's commission investigating human rights abuses to extend its probe back to the first military coup in 1966.”

Human rights commission opens in Nigeria

23 October, 2000,

How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?

Of Oputa,  Diya, al-Mustapha and Abdusalami Abubakar

Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD; August 20, 2001

Igbo Losses Counted at Oputa Panel

By Emmanuel Onwubiko, The Guardian, 26 July 2001

Obasanjo puts himself on Trial

Monday, September 10, 2001

Nigerian rights probe presented

BBC 21 May, 2002

The Problem with the Oputa Panel

Where is the Oputa Panel’s Report

Sonny Onyegbula February 28, 2004

Generals Evade Nigerian Rights Panel

BBC  1 November, 2001

Dele Giwa: S'Court Overrules Oputa Panel on IBB

Hearing on IBB, Oputa suit today

Daily Trust, October 22, 2002

Time for Justice and Accountability

21 December 2000

Oputa: Legal and Historical Antecedents by Duro Onabule


OBASANJO ON FIRE...Over comments on Gulf war windfall


Friday, April 23, 2004

President Olusegun Obasanjo has got thumbs down for accusing the regime of ex-military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida of squandering the $12.2 billion Gulf War revenue windfall, but failing to bring the culprits to book.

Obasanjo had lamented in an address read on his behalf at the opening of the 4th Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference in Abuja earlier in the week that the Babangida regime squandered the crude oil revenue which accrued from the Gulf War in 1991 with very little to show for it.


It was the first time the president would issue an indictment on the Gulf War oil windfall, but Babangida on his part had dismissed the contentious crude oil revenue as a non-issue, saying there was no windfall.

Notable Nigerians who reacted on the issue carpeted Obasanjo as well as Babangida. Obasanjo was accused of insincerity in his handling of the matter, while the ex-military president was berated for not coming clean on it.

President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Chief Wole Olanipekun blamed President Obasanjo for merely telling Nigerians that the oil money was squandered and stopped at that without telling the nation what he was doing about it.
Olanipekun said Obasanjo owed Nigerians a duty to do the right thing in the right direction, considering that his adminsitration had once given the impression of fighting corruption in the land.


“This oil money was lodged somewhere and could not be found again. That there was no record of it again was an indication of foul play somewhere or that somebody actually had removed it. Obasanjo owes us a duty of telling us what he is doing about it,” the NBA president said.

Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), in another reaction said it was not enough for Obasanjo to say Babangida squandered the oil money, adding that “IBB should face the music and be tried for stealing.”

Fawehinmi argued that by the president’s statement, “It is clear that the Gulf money amounting to about $12.2 billion had been stolen, looted and mismanaged.”


“It is not just mentioning it that the money was squandered, President Obasanjo should go further to invoke the country’s legal system on the looters,” Fawehinmi stressed.
Besides, the human rights lawyer insisted that all those who looted the nation’s treasury from 1966 to date should be arrested and prosecuted before a court of law.


Another lawyer, Fred Agbaje, said if it was true that Obasanjo said Babangida mismanaged or squandered the Gulf oil windfall, then the ex-military ruler should be arrested and prosecuted without further delay.

According to him, nothing prevented the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission from stepping into the matter, adding: “That could put every government on their toe and make them think twice about the management, mismanagement or squandermania tendencies that most government officials are renowned for.”

Agbaje said further that taking action on the crude oil money would help to instill the principle of accountability that is most desirable in governance otherwise people like IBB who should be languishing in jail would find themselves back in government.

In another comment, human rights activist, Femi Falana also roundly condemned Babangida for allegedly squandering the money and still having the guts to aspire to rule Nigeria again.
Falana said Babangida should know that the issue of $12.2 billion would keep on recurring until a definite answer is found and that he would not enjoy any rest till that day.


The human rights lawyer also condemned Obasanjo for chasing the late General Abacha’s looted $5 billion in five years while there was a 12.2 billion dollars still standing against Babangida who is alive and very much around.

Falana said President Obasanjo should stop taking Nigerians for a ride having said recently that the report of Pius Okigbo panel which investigated the issue was missing.
“This is the first time IBB is saying there was no windfall. Earlier, he had said that he was not indicted which means that he had read the report or seen it. So, he should be bold enough to cause the report to be published so that Nigerians can make up their minds on it.


“For Obasanjo, to say that the $12.2 billion was squandered was not enough. We want to see the report and he can’t say it’s missing because the current Secretary to the Federal Government was a member of the panel,” said Falana.

Femi Falana stressed that Obasanjo should employ the law with which he had been chasing Abacha’s five billion dollars to get explanations on the 12.2 billion dollars. “Otherwise, it is irresponsible and means that there are two laws, one for the dead and one for the living.”


The Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere also casts doubts on Obasanjo’s sincerity on the Gulf War oil revenue, querying “Why is he just raising the issue now?”
Afenifere, which spoke through its National Publicity Secretary, Dayo Adeyeye, noted that journalists had asked the president questions on the issue several times in the past, “and on one occasion, he almost gave Babangida a clean bill over the issue.”

Also reacting, another Lagos lawyer, Mr Festus Keyamo said the president should come out clearly and tell Nigerians what happened to the oil money.


“Was it mismanagement or embezzlement?” Keyamo asked.

He also questioned the government’s refusal to release the white paper on Okigbo’s report over the alleged missing money.

“The Federal Government should release Okigbo white paper report to the public, so that the people themselves can decide,” he stressed.


Founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr Fredrick Fasehun on his part challenged Babangida to sue Nigerians for maligning his name if he believed there was nothing like $12.2 billion Gulf oil windfall.


Fasehun was particularly angered by the purported reaction of the former maximum ruler that there was nothing like Gulf oil windfall.

According to Fasehun, “Obasanjo has not said anything new. Nigerians have been holding it against Babangida that he owed the nation the $12.2 billion dollars accrued from the crude oil sales during the 1991 Gulf war.”


The OPC chieftain wondered why Babangida failed to appear before retired Justice Chukwudifu Oputa panel, which would have afforded him the opportunity to clear his name.


Also reacting, human right activist, Bamidele Aturu, described both Obasanjo’s comment and Babangida’s response as sheer hypocrisy.

According to Aturu,”The only proper forum to resolve the controversy over the excess money, which accrued from the sales of crude oil during the Gulf war is a judicial commission of enquiry. Both of them have been issuing contradictory statements in spite of the Okigbo report.”


Continuing, Aturu said, “They must be compelled to give evidence on oath. One of them must be lying in view of the content of the 1994 Okigbo panel report. Don’t forget that Obasanjo has found the report difficult or too hot to handle. It is the only report they say they cannot locate, sounds funny. But certainly, Nigerians are interested in getting to the root of the matter.”



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