The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila.
SERAP is challenging their failure to probe and refer to the appropriate anti-corruption agencies allegations that N4.4bn of public money budgeted for the National Assembly was 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 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 Dr Lawan, Mr Gbajabiamila and the National Assembly to perform their constitutional oversight functions to ensure the 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 argued 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, promote transparency and accountability in the management of public resources.”
According to SERAP: “Transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and wealth are 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.”
Besides, SERAP is also arguing that “The National Assembly has a 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.”
SERAP said: “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.”
“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 the 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.”