SERAP Asks President Buhari To Investigate Payment of N17bn to National Assembly as 'Election Expenses'

SERAP has asked President Buhari to direct the Attorney General to investigate the payment of N17bn to the National Assembly as ‘election expenses’ of its members to pass the 2015 budget and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, prosecute anyone suspected to be involved.

SERAP made this known yesterday in a series of tweets.

It went on to urge the president to “instruct the Attorney General/appropriate anti-corruption agencies to publish the report of any such investigation including the names of anyone that may have benefited from the public funds, and to ensure the recovery of proceeds of corruption.”

The organization said it would “institute legal proceedings to compel your government to act in the public interest if these steps are not taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

It remarked that former finance minister, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had alleged on page 80 of her book, "Fighting corruption is dangerous", that “N17 billion was forced into the budget for election expenses of members of @nassnigeria The funds became the price to pay to have the 2015 budget passed.”

Budgeting N17bn as election expenses of lawmakers, it maintains, breaches article 15 of the UNCAC which Nigeria has ratified. Using public funds as election expenses of lawmakers violates the convention, which prohibits bribery and equires the proper management of public affairs and public funds.
Some of it's tweets read: "The illicit or improper nature of the election expenses is buttressed by the fact that the election of any lawmaker is a ‘benefit’ to him/her and not a matter of public interest or legitimate public spending, & implicitly amount to an abuse of legislative powers for private gain.

"Allowing lawmakers to enjoy illicit benefits is an arbitrary exercise of executive functions. Facilitating N17bn as election expenses has undercut access of millions of Nigerians to services, as the funds could have been legitimately spent on services such as health, education

"The required elements of the offence of bribery are those of promising, offering or giving something to a public official, such as the alleged N17bn for election expenses of lawmakers.

"The allegation that members of the executive allowed NASS to have their way on the N17bn also suggests giving the lawmakers an undue advantage to get the 2015 budget passed. The undue advantage also seemed linked to d official duties of lawmakers to induce the passing of d budget

"SERAP notes that the alleged N17 billion bribe has increased attention to the growing lack of transparency and accountability of the National Assembly, and the corresponding loss of trust and faith by Nigerians in the budgeting process and disillusionment in their lawmakers.

"Investigating the allegation, identifying the suspects & ensuring that they are promptly brought to justice as well as ensuring recovery of any proceeds of corruption would help address the crisis of integrity in the national assembly and contribute to improving public trust.

"The ultimate object of any government is to promote good governance & the greatest happiness of the greatest number. This means stopping arbitrariness in the budgeting process & in the use of public funds as well as replacing privilege with transparency and accountability

"The allegation of budgeting N17bn for election expenses of lawmakers if proven would amount to gross violations of law, abuse of power, and bribery, and indeed, undermining the law-making and budgeting process.

"We note that the Attorney General is a defender of public interest and has the powers under Section 174(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against anyone suspected to be responsible for acts of corruption"