Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), at the weekend demanded from the Senate President Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila to “to urgently probe and refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies allegations that N4.4 billion of public money budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen”.
According to the SERAP, the allegation of the missing money was documented in three audited reports by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
In the open letter dated 30 January 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “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 also able to hold both itself and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to account in the management of public resources.”
SERAP said: “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.”
SERAP expressed concern that “these allegations of corruption, mismanagement, and misappropriation of public funds amount to fundamental breaches of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.”
The letter, read in part: “Any failure to promptly, thoroughly and independently investigate these serious allegations; and also prosecute suspected perpetrators; as well as recover missing public funds; and assets would also undermine public trust in the ability of the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure probity; transparency; as well as accountability in the management of public funds.
“The Auditor-General noted in his 2015 report that the National Assembly account was spent N8,800,000.00 as unauthorised overdraft; contrary to Financial Regulations 710. The National Assembly also reportedly spent N115,947,016.00 without any documents. Another N158,193,066.00 spent as cash advances to 17 staff between January and June 2015 is yet to be retired.
“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.”
SERAP further stated that the letter is copied to Mr Abubakar Malami SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); and also Mr Mohammed Abba, Acting Chairman, Economic, and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).