The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Dr Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President, and Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of House of Representatives, to “promptly probe and refer to appropriate anti-corruption agencies fresh allegations that N10billion of public money budgeted for the National Assembly is missing, misappropriated or diverted.”
In the letter dated 11 Dec. 2021 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said: “The grim allegations that N10,051,283,568.82 of public money is missing are documented in the 2019 audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.”
SERAP added that: “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 in the management of public funds.
“Little can be achieved by the National Assembly in the fight against corruption if the leadership and members don’t first confront the spectre of alleged corruption and mismanagement within their ranks.”
SERAP is also calling on Lawan and 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.”
The letter partly read: “As part of its legislative and oversight functions, the National Assembly has a key role to play in the fight against corruption in the country. But 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.
“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2019, the House of Representatives paid N2,550,000,000.00 to members as running costs between July and December 2019, but failed to account for the money, contrary to paragraph 1011(i) of the Financial Regulations. There was no evidence to show what the funds were used for, and no documents to back-up the spending.
“The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may have been ‘diverted.'” He wants the money recovered.”
“The House of Representatives also reportedly paid N258,000,000 as cash advances to 59 officers between Feb. and Dec. 2019 but has failed to account for the money.
“The House of Representatives also reportedly paid N107,912,962.45 as repairs and maintenance allowance for unspecified residential quarters but failed to account for the money. The money spent was also in excess of the cash advances threshold of N200,000.00 as stipulated by the Financial Regulations.”
“Nigerians bear the heavy economic and social costs of corruption. The National Assembly, therefore, has a responsibility to curb it.”
The letter was copied to the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abukabar Malami, SAN, 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 chairmen of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.