$12.4 missing oil money: How Punch Newspaper championed release of Okigbo report

Pius Okigbe
Pius Okigbe

Campaign for the official  release of the now  publicised Okigbo report started long ago when Punch Newspaper in an official letter to the Central Bank of Nigeria  requested for a copy of the report so that it could be publicised for the public knowledge.

But typical of the nation’s high authorities cover up of  influential and famous, the  Newspaper’s request was rebuffed even  despite  consistent reminders.

An official letter dated March 12, 2008 which had been written by PUNCH Newspaper Acting  Editor, Mr Pius Ayorinde and addressed to the then Central Bank Governor, Chukwuma Soludo in request of the report  had been despatched through DHL to forestall  its missing in transit.

It was one of the numerous reminders the Newspaper had sent to secure the release of the report.

Earlier in August 14, 2003 a letter requesting for a copy of the report was written to the office of the Secretary General of the Federation (SGF). There was no response to the letter.

Punch also forwarded a letter to the President, Olusegun Obasanjo on November5, 2003 to facilitate the release after all efforts failed to secure the report through its many investigating correspondences who were detailed for the assignment.

Punch story on Friday April 4, 2008 in which the paper told the World of its rebuff by various governmental authorities and sources:

Punch Newspapers
Punch Newspapers

Barely three weeks after a letter to it, the Central Bank of Nigeria is yet to respond to PUNCH‘s request for a copy of the Pius Okigbo Panel report on the $12.4bn oil windfall, which accrued to the country during the 1991 Gulf War.

PUNCH‘s letter of March 12, 2008, addressed to the Governor of the CBN, was routed through the DHL.

The letter to the CBN was a renewed effort by PUNCH to pursue the release of the Okigbo panel report to a logical conclusion after several attempts to obtain the report, especially during the last administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo failed.

The five- paragraph letter titled, Request for the Pius Okigbo Panel Report on 1991 Oil Windfall, signed by the Acting Editor, THE PUNCH, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, reads:

”In view of the accountability and transparency posture of the present administration in the country, we are compelled to write again for a copy of the Pius Okigbo Panel report that probed how the $12.4bn oil windfall, which accrued to Nigeria during the 1991 Gulf war, was spent.

”We had relentlessly pursued this matter under the last dispensation of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, but was told that the report could not be found anywhere in government, not even at the National Archives, where public documents are supposed to be kept. But after much investigation, we have been reliably told that copies of the report are available at the Trade and Exchange Department of the CBN.

”Our concern in this is in the public interest as well as the letter and spirit of section 22 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states: ‘The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media at all times shall be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people.

”As stated earlier in correspondence to government on the report, PUNCH believed and still believes that bringing the report to the public domain, where it rightly belongs, is not only consistent with the cardinal principles of government‘s relentless commitment to transparency and accountability, but that such a step will strengthen public confidence in the outcome, efficacy and usefulness of public inquiries, now and in the future.

”We therefore trust that you will use your good offices to make a copy of the report available to us.”

PUNCH had written former President Olusegun Obasanjo on November 5, 2003, to facilitate the release of the report after a two-month investigation by our correspondents in Lagos and Abuja to unearth the document failed.

The letter signed by the then Editor, THE PUNCH, Mr. Azubuike Ishiekwene, was copied to the then President of the Senate, Chief Adolphus Wabara; Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muhammadu Uwais; the Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Masari; the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Akin Olujinmi; and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, who served as the secretary of the Okigbo Panel of Inquiry.

PUNCH had earlier on August 14, 2003, written to the SGF‘s office, requesting a copy of the report but received no reply.

The newspaper then took its search to the National Archives through a letter dated October 26, 2003.

But in a reply to our letter, Mr. A. O. Adepetun, who signed on behalf of the Director, regretted that the Okigbo panel report was not in the Archives.