Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has written National Assembly leadership on the alleged missing N4.4 billion of public money budgeted for both chambers, saying the lawmakers must urgently initiate a probe and also refer the allegations to appropriate anti-corruption agencies.
It indicated that the allegations that N4.4 billion of public money budgeted for the National Assembly was missing, misappropriated, diverted, or stolen, as documented in three audited reports by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation despite the administration’s professed anti-corruption drive were surprising.
The rights group argued that to ensure public trust, it was pertinent for the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to use their good offices in urgently probing the missing amount from the assembly’s cover.
Through an open letter dated 30 January 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization maintained that by exercising strong and effective leadership in this matter, the National Assembly can show Nigerians that the legislative body is a proper and accountable watchdog that represents and protects the public interest, and is able to hold both itself and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to account in the management of public resources.
According to SERAP, if not satisfactorily addressed, these allegations would also undermine public confidence in the ability of the National Assembly to exercise its constitutional and oversight responsibilities to prevent and combat corruption and to ensure the public interest, transparency, and accountability in the management of public resources.
The letter, read in part: “Any failure to promptly, thoroughly and independently investigate these serious allegations, prosecute suspected perpetrators, and recover missing public funds and assets would undermine public trust in the ability of the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure probity, transparency, and accountability in the management of public funds.
“We would be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the leadership of the National Assembly to implement these recommendations in the public interest and to promote transparency and accountability in the National Assembly.
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. Nigeria has ratified both treaties.”
The letter was copied to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, and the Acting Chairman, Economic, and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mohammed Abba.