A coalition of civil society groups have written to the House of Representatives demanding investigation into alleged corruption, fraud and budget misapplication against some of its members.
The petition, which was addressed to the Chairman, Public Petitions Committee of the lower chamber, Hon. Ossai Ossai, requested that given the gravity of allegations against the House leadership in particular, an open and credible investigation should be done by the committee.
The individuals and groups that signed the petition included Olanrewaju Suraju, Chairman, Civil Society Network Against Corruption; ‘Yemi Adamolekun, Executive Director, EiE Nigeria; Ngozi Iwere, Executive Director, Reclaim Naija; Seun Onigbinde, Team Lead, BudgIT; and Adetokunbo Mumuni, Executive Director, SERAP.
Others were Samson Itodo, Head, Research & Strategy, YIAGA; Funke Baruwa, CEO, Women’s Trust Fund; Tunji Lardner, WANGONet; Ezenwa Nwagu, Say No Campaign; Anwal Rafsanjani, CISLAC; Idayat Hassan, CDD; Nwanguma Okechukwu, Coordinator, NOPRIN; and Achike Chude, JDPC.
Making up the list are, Sina Odugbemi, Coordinator, Value and Integrity Group; Adeola Soetan, coordinator, Democracy Vanguard; Popoola Ajayi, Executive Director, CEDESED; Buna Isiak, Coordinator, Human Rights Monitors Agenda; Ayodele Akele, Executive Director, LHHRDC; G. O. Alex, CDHR; Debo Adeniran, Chairman, CACOL; Gbenga Soloki, E.D., CAIDOV: Dotun Atilade, PEDEP; and Adewale Adeoye, E.D., JODER.
While stating that Lack of accountability in the National Assembly is very dangerous for the country’s fledgling democracy, the civil society organisations said the decision of the legislature to shroud its financial activity in secrecy is at the root of its travails as a public institution.
They said: “The most recent crisis are the allegations and counter allegations between Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, former Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House, against Mr Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker, other principal officers of the House of Representatives and 12 other members of the House of Representatives on a flawed budgeting process and the haphazard allocation of constituency projects that are less about the communities’ needs and more about the legislators’ wants.”
The groups said the allegations they want investigated urgently include Amendments to the Budget, Constituency funds, Fraud and Misappropriation of Funds and controversial allowances.
Calling for an urgent rebuilding of values in the National Assembly, the groups said: “There are overwhelming allegations of abuses in the discharge of National Assembly’s legislative and oversight duties. At the heart of these allegations are corrupt enrichment, conspiracy to act corruptly, embezzlement, diversion and misappropriation of public funds for lavish lifestyles, abuse of office and public trust.
“It is of great concern to Nigerians that members of the National Assembly are oblivious of content of their own budget, yet they hold court over how the budget of the country is spent.
“Public auditing of spending by the National Assembly and several reports on allegations of corruption that have been investigated remain shrouded in secrecy. This does nothing for an institution that seeks to be ‘responsive, accessible, representative and accountable.”
According to the groups, their demands include open investigation of these allegations, zero-based budgeting and citizens’ involvement in the budgeting process, reformed constituency projects and an Open National Assembly, for which it has created the hashtag: #OpenNASS.
The groups added in the letter to the House: “The National Assembly should: (1) Publish its detailed 2016 budget, (2) Scrap voice voting and use the e-voting system already installed; (3) Activate the switchboard in the National Assembly Complex so citizens can engage their representatives; (4) Ensure the National Assembly’s website is updated regularly with bills and contact information for members; (5) Provide an online attendance register for plenary sessions.
“Finally, we would like to reiterate that these allegations are weighty and if true, the 2016 Budget must be amended accordingly in line with the constitution which remains the pillar from which this government derives its powers.
“The National Assembly is a critical institution in our democracy and we will ensure that it is repurposed to serve all Nigerians, not just a few. We urge the National Assembly to take appropriate action to put the House in order before the year ends.”
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