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SERAP seeks probe of alleged missing N4.4b NASS funds

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to urgently probe allegation that N4.4 billion budgeted for National Assembly is “missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen” as documented in three audited reports by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

In an open letter dated January 30, 2021 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the body said by exercising strong and effective leadership in this matter, the National Assembly could show Nigerians that the legislative arm is a proper and accountable watchdog that represents and protects the public interest, and is able to hold both itself and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to account in the management of public resources.

“If not satisfactorily addressed, these allegations would also undermine public confidence in the ability of the National Assembly to exercise its constitutional and oversight responsibilities to prevent and combat corruption, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of public resources”, the group said.

The letter was copied to Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye and Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mohammed Abba.

“The Auditor-General noted in his 2015 report that the National Assembly spent N8,800,000.00 as unauthorised overdraft, contrary to Financial Regulations 710. The National Assembly also reportedly spent N115,947,016.00 without any documents. Another N158,193,066.00 spent as cash advances to 17 staff between January and June 2015 is yet to be retired”, it read in part.

In a reaction to the letter, Chairman, Media and Public Affairs in the Senate, Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru, noted that the audit reports from which the allegations were made were those of 2015 and 2017, Guardian reported.

Basiru said the wordings and spirit of the letter addressed to the leadership of the 9th National Assembly were misleading and likely to be misconstrued as referring to the present Assembly.

According to him, the letter was directed to wrong quarters.

He said “The proper channels to send the petitions should have been the Senate and House of Representatives committees on Public Account, if the real motive is genuinely to investigate the alleged corruption and not just to generate usual publicity stunt”.

Basiru however, assured SERAP that if it diligently pursued its petition, the relevant committees of the two chambers would address it properly.

SERAP had threatened that it would be left with no choice other than seek “all appropriate legal actions to compel the leadership of the National Assembly to implement the recommendations contained in the audit report in the interest of transparency and accountability” if the leadership of the National Assembly failed to react within 14 days.

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