President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, have been dragged before the Federal High Court, Abuja for their failure to publish details of corruption probes in the National Assembly.
In the suit filed at the weekend by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the duo was specifically sued for failure to disclose the number of probes that have resulted in any indictment of suspects and to name such suspects since 1999.
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, followed a recent public hearing by the National Assembly on corruption allegations in ministries, departments and agencies, including the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
SERAP said reports of public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly had been kept secret, and the allegations unresolved.
According to the court papers, the plaintiff wants an order of mandamus to direct and compel Lawan and Gbajabiamila to send all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there is sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution.
SERAP is also seeking an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel Lawan and Gbajabiamila to widely publish all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes by the Senate and the House of Representatives and to disclose the number and names of any indicted suspects since 1999.
Also, the plaintiff is asking for “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Lawan and Gbajabiamila to sponsor a resolution to stop lawmakers from directly getting involved in the execution of projects by MDAs, and to ensure the proper and effective exercise of their oversight functions over corruption allegations, including in the NDDC and NSITF.”
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated July 25, 2020, in which the group stated 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.”
According to the plaintiff, granting the reliefs sought would bolster public trust and confidence in the lawmakers’ oversight functions, and dispel the perception that many of the hearings and probes are politically-motivated and serve a personal interest, rather than the general public interests.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.