Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, has denied being served with any court processes relating to the court judgment ordering her to supply information on the spending of an allegedly missing N30 trillion representing part of the accruable income to the Federal Government in the last four years of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
She has also announced that she has taken legal action against the Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP), the organization that filed the suit against her.
The denial was contained in a statement signed by Paul Nwabiukwu, her spokesperson.
According to the statement, the former minister is yet to read the judgment and would therefore defer any comments on the matter.
The judgment was delivered last week by Justice Ibrahim Buba in a Freedom of Information suit filed before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos by SERAP.
"However, from the media reports, the case was instituted in February 2015, but was not served until July 2015 after Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had already ceased to be the Minister of Finance.
"By the date the said papers were purportedly served, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was no longer a public officer and could therefore not be the subject of a request for production of any documents or information under the Freedom of information Act," said Mr. Nwabiukwu.
He maintained that the court processes must have been served on other people, claiming that the former minister's attention was never drawn to the matter in which she was sued personally, the reason for which she did not have a lawyer to defend her in the matter.
Mr. Nwabiukwu said SERAP's suit was based on unsubstantiated allegations made by Professor Charles Soludo, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He said the missing sum on which the suit was based was about seven times the total annual budget during the Jonathan administration. This, he alleged, confirms SERAP’s position as a tool in the hands of politically-motivated actors.
"It is curious that the first time Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is being made aware of a matter filed against her in court is in news reports reporting the delivery of judgment. She has instructed her lawyers to take steps to set aside the judgment as it affects her."
In the judgment given last week, Justice Buba had said:
“Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government have no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested for. The court has gone through the application and agrees that SERAP’s application has merits, and the argument is not opposed. SERAP’s application is granted as prayed."
The court concurred with the contention of Olukayode Majekodunmi, SERAP's Deputy Director, that the former minister should have provided the information requested by SERAP or issue a denial of the allegation within seven days of the receipt of the request from SERAP.
In February last year, SERAP filed a suit against Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala for her failure to provide information on how the allegedly missing N30 trillion was spent. The matter appeared to have been triggered by Mr. Soludo, who asked, “How many trillions of naira were paid for oil subsidy (unappropriated?) How many trillions (in actual fact) have been 'lost' through Customs duty waivers over the last four years? Can you tell Nigerians why the price of diesel has still not come down despite the crash in global crude oil prices, and how much is being appropriated by friends in the process?”