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SERAP sues NASS leadership over missing N4.4bn budget

By News Desk

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila over their failure to probe and refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies allegations that N4.4bn of public money budgeted for the National Assembly was missing.

The group argued that it was surprising that information on such missing, misappropriated, diverted, perhaps stolen fund budgeted for the Assembly, as documented in three annual audited reports by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, was kept from relevant agencies, and Nigerians particularly.

SERAP noted that the concerns raised over the alleged diversion and misappropriation of public funds by the office of the Auditor-General for recovery of any missing funds necessitated the legal process.

In suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/366/2021 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the group sought an order of mandamus directing and compelling Lawan, Gbajabiamila, and the National Assembly to perform their constitutional oversight functions in ensuring the prompt and transparent investigation into the allegations of the missing fund.

According to SERAP, the failure of the National Assembly to promptly and thoroughly investigate, and to refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies the allegations documented in the annual audited reports for 2015, 2017 and 2018 is a fundamental breach of the oversight and public interest duties imposed on the legislative body by sections 4, 88 and 89 of the Nigerian Constitution.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “This suit seeks to vindicate the rule of law, the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability. Government agencies and institutions are responsible to a court of justice for the lawfulness of what they do, and of that the court is the only judge. The National Assembly has no legally justifiable reason to refuse to investigate the allegations documented by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the Constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm.”

It would be recalled that SERAP had in a letter dated 30 January 2021 requested Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila to “use their good offices to urgently probe and refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies allegations that N4.4 billion of public money budgeted for the National Assembly may have been misappropriated, diverted or stolen.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit

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