SERAP sues Lawan, Gbajabiamila over ‘missing N4.4bn NASS funds’

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SERAP

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.

This is as a result of “their failure to probe and to 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, as documented in three annual audited reports by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

The suit followed the publication of annual audited reports for 2015, 2017, and 2018 in which the Auditor-General of the Federation raised “concerns about alleged diversion and misappropriation of public funds, sought the recovery of any missing funds, and asked that the evidence of recovery should be forwarded to his office.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/366/2021 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus directing and compelling Lawan, Gbajabiamila and the National Assembly to perform their constitutional oversight functions to ensure prompt and transparent investigation into the allegations that N4.4 billion budgeted for the National Assembly may be missing and unaccounted for.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that “By the combined reading of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the UN Convention against Corruption, which Nigeria has ratified, the National Assembly has legal duties to combat corruption, and promote transparency and accountability in the management of public resources.”

According to SERAP: “transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and wealth is essential for promoting development, people’s welfare and well-being, and their access to basic public services, as well as good governance and the rule of law.”

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SERAP is also arguing that “The National Assembly has legal responsibility to ensure that the serious allegations of corruption and mismanagement documented by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation are promptly, independently, thoroughly, and transparently investigated, and to end the culture of impunity that is fuelling these allegations.”

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 Ms Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “Granting this application would serve the interest of justice, reduce corruption and mismanagement, as well as end impunity of perpetrators, and advance the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.”

SERAP had, in a letter dated January 30, 2021 requested, Lawan and 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.