Why Government Should Release the
Okigbo and Oputa Reports
– A Question of Credibility
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.
THE OKIGBO PANEL REPORT
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 [http://www.wtrg.com/prices.htm]
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
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.
letter dated November 5, 2003, the newspaper urged the President to facilitate
the release of the report for publication. ……
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
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
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.
also noted that the accounts were operated outside the national budgets and
therefore not open to auditing.
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.
THE OPUTA PANEL REPORT
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
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
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:
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”;
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.
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.”
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
So who is developing cold feet
about publication here? Who is protecting whom?
That is what inquiring minds
want to know.
WHY THE NIGERIAN PEOPLE
MUST HAVE BOTH REPORTS
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
panel report: President hasn’t contacted me“ - Okigbo’s widow
December 16, 2003
Nigeria and Its Membership of OPEC
Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD;
January 26, 2004
Nigeria to probe human
June 5, 1999
Nigeria extends human rights
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
By Emmanuel Onwubiko,
The Guardian, 26 July 2001
Obasanjo puts himself on Trial
Monday, September 10, 2001
Nigerian rights probe
21 May, 2002
The Problem with the Oputa
Where is the Oputa Panel’s
Sonny Onyegbula February 28,
Generals Evade Nigerian Rights
BBC 1 November, 2001
Giwa: S'Court Overrules Oputa Panel on IBB
Hearing on IBB, Oputa suit
Daily Trust, October 22, 2002
Time for Justice and
21 December 2000
Oputa: Legal and Historical
Antecedents by Duro Onabule
OBASANJO ON FIRE...Over
comments on Gulf war windfall
By ABDULFATAH OLADEINDE BEIFOH
OSEWELE, ADESINA AIYEKOTI RASAQ BAMIDELE, OLA AGBAJE, Lagos
WOLE ADEDEJI, Ilorin
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
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
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
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
“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.”