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NASS gets SERAP’s FoI request to publish reports on corruption probes, public hearings since 1999

Mr Femi Gbajabiamila and Dr Ahmad Lawan

 

The National Assembly has been urged to publish all the reports of public hearings and corruption probes since the country returned to democracy in 1999.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which made the request, also wants NASS 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.

In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request dated July 25, 2020 by the Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP asked the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, to send the reports to the appropriate anti-corruption agencies for consideration and prosecute those found culpable.

“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 interest, rather than the general public interests.

“We urge 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 is concerned about the systemic and widespread corruption allegations in MDAs and among high-ranking public officials, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development, as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply.

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt 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 FoI Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our requests,’’ Persecondnews quotes from the letter.

Describing the legislature as a public trust, SERAP added: “The exercise of oversight functions and powers by the National Assembly to conduct public hearings and corruption probes in MDAs should be regarded as a public trust.

“By Section 1 (1) of the FOI Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on reports of all public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since 1999.’’

It, therefore, wants NASS to comply within seven days, quoting Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act: “When a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution  or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”

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Written by Per Second News

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