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Missing N4.4bn NASS Fund: SERAP Drags Lawan, Gbajabiamila To Court

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Missing N4.4bn NASS Fund SERAP Drags Lawan Gbajabiamila To Court

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.”

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