© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
PETROLEUM MINISTER SUES PREMIUM TIMES, APC, OTHERS OVER MISSING $20 BILLION
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has sued Premium TImes and 10 other individuals and organizations to restrain them from further reporting on the controversial missing $20billion oil money involving the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The minister’s counsel, Godwin Obla, sought and obtained an interim injunction restraining the online newspaper and 10 others from “publishing or causing to be published any further defamatory statements” stating or suggesting that the minister “stole, misappropriate or colluded in the stealing of $20billion crude oil revenue” in an application brought before Justice AFA Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Obla warned the persons and organisations to desist from “further publishing any disparaging defamatory or otherwise salacious materia (sic) as it relates to or affects our client.”
Other defendants in the case include the All Progressives Congress, APC, Vanguard Media Limited and its editor, Mideno Bayagbon; Leadership Newspapers Group Limited and its editor Ekele Peter Agbo; Premium Times Services Limited and its editor in chief, Dapo Olorunyomi, and Vintage Press Limited and its editor, Lekan Otufodunrin, while the National Broadcasting Corporation, NBC, and the Nigerian Press Council, NPC, were also joined in the application.
The court directed the two government regulators to ensure that Alison-Madueke is not linked in any report regarding the alleged missing $20 billion either on broadcast media, internet, print or radio.
The court specifically ordered the media houses to “desist from publishing any materials or running any programmme alluding to the complicity or collusion” the minister in respect of “$20billion, $49billion or any other figure, howsoever computed or arrived at, which are purportedly/allegedly missing or ‘unaccounted’ for”.
“You are hereby advised to immediately ensure total compliance with the order of the Hon. Justice Ademola and to further cease and desist forthwith from publishing any material, howsoever titled or presented and irrespective of its form and content, which alludes to any amorous, immoral, salacious and defamatory matters connected to or related with our client, including anything to do with any allegation(s) or insinuation that our client colluded, was involved with or is complicit in the matter of a purportedly/allegedly missing $20billion, $49billion or any other amount whatsoever, until the determination of the substantive suit,” it stated.
Alarm over the missing $20 billion oil money was first raised by former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Lamido Sanusi, who accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, of not accounting for the amount.
A forensic audit of the NNPC was consequently carried out by PriceWaterHouseCoopers Limited but President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered that the report be withheld from the public.
Alison-Madueke, in an interview with Financial Times of London, explained that the government was sitting on the report to ensure a “rabid” opposition does not exploit every of its detail to ridicule the government ahead of crucial polls March 28.
Due to pressure and agitation from Nigerians, the government released highlights of the report in which it was stated that the NNPC was indebted to the government, but at a much lower rate of $1.49billion which the petroleum minister has since directed to be paid into the federation account.
The House of Representatives and many Nigerians have continued to demand the release of the full report but the petroleum minister and her finance counterpart, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, have ignored the calls for a public release of the audit report.