By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to, within 7 days, publish all reports of hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since 1999.
It urged them to disclose the number and details of public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly that have resulted in any indictment of suspects, and to name such suspects.
The reports should be sent to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there is sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution, SERAP noted.
The FoI requests signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, said publishing the reports of hearings and probes would bolster public trust and confidence in the oversight functions, and dispel the perception that many of these hearings and probes are politically motivated and serve personal interests.
SERAP noted that the most effective way to deter corruption is to make the cost of engaging in these types of acts higher than the rewards.
“This end can only be accomplished by making public the reports and pursuing public accountability for corrupt acts. Doing so would also give Nigerians greater confidence that their lawmakers can use their constitutional oversight functions to address corruption in Nigeria.”
SERAP urged Lawan and Gbajabiamila you to sponsor a resolution to stop lawmakers from directly getting involved in the execution of projects by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure the proper and effective exercise of oversight functions, including investigations of corruption allegations, such as those involving the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).”
“We also urge you to urgently use the opportunity of the ongoing public hearings and corruption probes to influence Nigeria’s anti-corruption agenda, including by immediately amending section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act on independent counsel for corruption.
“Section 52 requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials, and to report his/her findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly.
“The proposed amendment should include additional requirements beyond merely reporting to lawmakers, that would allow the independent counsel to use the findings of any investigation as a basis to pursue effective prosecution of corruption cases without any authorisation by the executive or the National Assembly.”
SERAP recalled that both the Senate and House of Representatives have over the years conducted several public hearings and corruption probes to expose pervasive problem of corruption in MDAs.
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of the FoI requests.
“If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our requests.”