The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Senate President Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila to probe fresh missing N4.1 billion budgeted for the National Assembly.
The anti-corruption organization urged the two public officials to use their good offices to urgently probe and refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies, fresh allegations that N4.1 billion of public funds budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen, as documented in the 2016 audited report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
This disclosure is contained in a public statement issued by SERAP on Sunday, May 16, 2021.
SERAP said that these allegations are not part of the disclosure by the Auditor-General in other audited reports that N4.4 billion of National Assembly money is missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen.
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In the letter dated May 15, 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation pointed out that the National Assembly has a key role to play in the fight against corruption in the country as part of its legislative and oversight functions.
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However, it noted that little can be achieved by the legislative body in the anti-corruption fight if the leadership and members do not first confront the specter of alleged corruption and mismanagement within their ranks.
SERAP also urged Dr. Lawan and Mr. Gbajabiamila to identify the lawmakers and staff members suspected to be involved, and hand them over to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to face prosecution, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and to ensure full recovery of any missing public funds.
What SERAP is saying
The letter from SERAP partly reads, “Ensuring the effective investigation of these fresh allegations, and full recovery of any missing public funds would strengthen the country’s accountability framework, and show that the National Assembly can discharge its constitutional responsibility of amplifying the voices of Nigerians. It will also show that the body is acting in the best interest of the people.”
“SERAP is concerned that allegations of corruption continue to undermine economic development, violate social justice, and destroy trust in economic, social, and political institutions. Nigerians bear the heavy economic and social costs of corruption. The National Assembly, therefore, has a responsibility to curb it.”
“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2016, N4,144,706,602.68 of National Assembly money is missing, diverted or stolen. The National Assembly paid some contractors N417,312,538.79 without any documents. The Auditor-General wants the Clerk to the National Assembly to ‘recover the amount in question from the contractors.’”
“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 as to the steps being taken in this direction, 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.”
“The National Assembly can only effectively perform its anti-corruption role if it can demonstrate exemplary leadership to probe the allegations of corruption and mismanagement involving the legislative body.”
“SERAP notes that the Auditor-General in 2015, 2017, and 2018 reports documented that N4.4 billion of public money budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen.”
“Addressing the allegations would improve public confidence and trust in the ability of the National Assembly to exercise its constitutional and oversight responsibilities, and to adhere to the highest standards of integrity.”
The letter was copied to Mr. Abukabar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic, and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and the Chairmen of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.
Recent Probe Recommendations from SERAP
It can be recalled that a few days ago, SERAP asked President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the N39.5 billion duplicated and mysterious projects inserted in the 2021 budget following a report from BudgIT, to know if public funds have been diverted in the guise of implementing the projects and prosecute those allegedly involved including those from the executive and the National Assembly.
SERAP, also in January 2021, asked the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, to urgently probe and refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies, allegations that N4.4 billion of public funds budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen based on three audited reports by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.