Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF’s Case

SERAP Urges Buhari To Hand SGF Over To EFCC, ICPCThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over what it termed ‘grass-cutting’ allegations against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Lawal Babachir.

The agency has urged him to use his good office and leadership position to “urgently refer the allegations of corruption against Mr Lawal to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation.

They have also asked that “if any relevant and admissible evidence is found, he should be made to face prosecution.”

In addition to that, the organization has asked President Buhari to “urgently publish the outcome of the investigation conducted on the matter by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN), and to ask Mr Malami to hand over the file to both the EFCC and ICPC.

No Double Standards

In a statement signed by the SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said, “We are concerned that the failure to suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, pending the investigation by Mr Malami.

“The perceived lack of transparency in the outcome of that investigation may have created the impression that your government is treating Mr Lawal as a sacred cow.”

The letter, sent to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbayo reads in part:

“SERAP believes that Mr Lawal’s case presents your administration with a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of your anti-corruption agenda.

“Rather than assuming a defensive posture to the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that there will be no two standards of justice in your Administration’s fight against corruption.

“SERAP also believes the recommended approach would help to address the growing public suspicion and pessimism about your government’s ability to fight high-level official corruption to a standstill, and to avoid any collateral consequences.

“It is absolutely important that the public should have complete confidence and trust in your administration’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and the impunity of perpetrators.

“It is true that Mr Lawal enjoys a constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

“But we believe that the right to presumption of innocence is one that should have personally been raised by Mr Lawal and not your government, especially given his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

“SERAP believes that the guilt or innocence of Mr Lawal is for the court to decide, following a due process of law.”

Inflated Contracts

To assist the government in achieving public confidence and trust and effectively spread the gospel of anti-corruption, the agency made the following recommendations:

  1. “Urgently refer the allegations against Mr Lawal to both the EFCC and ICPC for further investigations, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution.
  2. “Pending the referral to the EFCC and ICPC, suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, pending the outcome of any investigation by the EFCC and ICPC.
  3. “Promptly and widely publish the outcome of investigation carried out by Mr Malami and instruct that any files relating to that investigation be handed over to the EFCC and ICPC to assist in their follow-up investigation.”

According to SERAP,  the President had instructed Mr Malami to carry out further investigation into the alleged breach of Nigeria’s law in handling contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, (PINE).

“Among other allegations contained in the Senate’s report is that Mr Lawal’s company, Global Vision Ltd, benefited from inflated contracts of over 200 million Naira to clear ‘Invasive Plant Specie’ in Yobe State.

“According to the report, Mr Lawal was still the Director of Global Vision as of the time the contract was awarded in March 2016, and remains the signatory to the company’s account.”

“SERAP further notes your instruction to Mr Malami to carry out further investigation into the allegations, as well as your recent letter to the Senate effectively raising some technical and procedural concerns about the report which indicted Mr Lawal.”

Edo Speaker Defends N300m Benefit For Ex-Governors, Deputies

Edo Speaker Defends N300m Housing Benefit For Governors And DeputiesThe Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Justin Okonoboh, says the House is justified in approving the sum of 300 million naira as housing benefit for former governors and deputies.

The Speaker said this in reaction to allegations of waste of public funds against the House in various quarters, particularly social media.

He argued that the amount is not so outrageous in the face of current economic realities in the country, adding that the payment is one time only.

“Some talked about the amount and I think that was quite moderate because the law says any part of the country. If you want to use 200 million naira in Lagos, it probably might just be a grant to them because they need to add money to build a befitting house in Lagos or wherever,” he said.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned the idea of approving 300 million naira retirement benefits for the immediate past governor, Adams Oshiomhole, and his deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu.

The rights group has called on Governor Godwin Obaseki to “immediately withdraw the bill, and use the funds to clear the backlog of pension arrears spanning between seven and 45 months.”

SERAP’s call followed reports of amendment of Law for Pension Rights of the Governor and Deputy Governor by the Edo State House of Assembly, with the immediate past governor and deputy governor expected to be some of the beneficiaries.

The new amendment contains provision of residential buildings worth N200m and N100m for the governor and his deputy at the expiration of their tenures. The bill also provides that the buildings could be sited in any location of their choice.

Former Speaker’s Suspension

The Edo Speaker also commented on the suspension of former Speaker of the House, Victor Edoror.

Following his impeachment on May 4, an ad-hoc committee headed by Emmanuel Agbaje was set up to investigate the former speaker over alleged misappropriation of fund.

Edoror was suspended over his failure to appear before the committee, and the current Speaker insisted that the action followed due process.

“I set up another committee to invite him so that we can hear from him to give us their report within three months as it is usual during that period he remains suspended, that’s what we’ve just done.

“We are in the same party. It is not a political thing, it’s not a personal thing, we are from the same senatorial district. I actually thought I was doing him a favour,” he explained.

SERAP Asks Obaseki To Withdraw N300m Mansions Bill For Oshiomhole, Deputy

SERAP Condemns Reported N300m Mansions Bill For Oshiomhole, DeputySocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned the idea of approving 300 million naira mansion retirement benefits for immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, and his former deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu.

The rights group has called on Governor Godwin Obaseki to “immediately withdraw the bill, and use the funds to clear the backlog of pension arrears spanning between seven and 45 months.”

SERAP’s call followed reports of amendment of Law for Pension Rights of the Governor and Deputy Governor by the Edo State House of Assembly, with the immediate past governor and deputy governor expected to be some of the beneficiaries.

The new amendment contains provision of residential buildings worth N200m and N100m for the governor and his deputy at the expiration of their tenures. The bill also provides that the buildings could be sited in any location of their choice.

But in a statement dated November 17, 2016, SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni said: “Coming at a time the Edo State government can’t even pay its pensioners and salaries of workers, the amendment by the Edo State House of Assembly is immoral, unfair, unconstitutional, unreasonable, and a rip-off on a massive scale.

“Governor Obaseki must reject this grotesque bill if he’s to fulfil his election promises and lift millions of Edo State pensioners out of extreme poverty.

“This so-called proposed legislation means that millions of Edo pensioners and workers will have to fund the massive and unjust pensions for former governor, Oshiomhole and his deputy and others that will come after them.”

Edo-State-house-of-Assembly
Edo State House of Assembly

The statement furher read that “many of the retirees whose pensions have not been paid have been evicted from their apartments due to their inability to pay their rents””.

According to SERAP’s information, one of such retirees is Ihama Friday who at 60 is now squatting with friends. Another pensioner Osa-Aighobarueghia who retired as a head teacher “continues to live a life off debts because the Edo State government has refused to pay her 30 months’ pension benefits”.

“SERAP is aware that the Edo State government is not the only state passing such obnoxious pension laws to provide outrageous retirement benefits to former governors and deputy governors and that many of them are already in the National Assembly receiving multiple benefits and putting their personal bank accounts ahead of the common good.

“SERAP is finalising a comprehensive legal strategy to challenge these unjust laws and to name and shame those who continue to benefit from such laws.

“Nigerians should not be made to subsidise these bloated pensions and clearly undeserved perks. Governor Obaseki should not see disadvantaged Nigerians and poor pensioners according to Orwell’s Animal Farm dictum: ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others’.

“Approving the amendment by the Edo State House of Assembly will amount to a fundamental breach of the Governor’s constitutional oath declaration to serve the interest of justice, common good, transparency and accountability,” the group said.

SERAP maintained that it is appalled by “this apparently unfair and discriminatory law”, as there is no justification for such law at a time the pensions systems across the country are in poor shape, and pensioners continue to be denied the fruit of their labour.

“Former governors and their deputies can’t lawfully give to themselves a steady stream of public funds for life at a time millions of pensioners including in Edo State face cut to their pension schemes and remain in poverty without any state support,” it concluded.

Saraki’s Senate Is Perpetrating A Parliament Of Men, Not Of Laws – SERAP

fuel scarcitySocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Wednesday accused the 8th Senate under the leadership of Dr Bukola Saraki of perpetrating a parliament of men and not of laws.

The non governmental organisation has also called on the leadership of the Senate to immediately withdraw the unconstitutional summon for Justice Danladi Umar, Chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal to appear before its Ethics Committee.

The Senate, according to SERAP, “can’t arrogate to itself the power to summon judges without violating constitutional safeguards.”

The group said that “The summon represents a direct assault upon the principle of judicial independence as it undermines the constitutional principle of separation of powers and guarantee of a judicial system that is free from outside influence of whatever kind and from whatever source”.

The statement, signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, adds that “the constitutional power of the Senate can only be validly exercised if it’s intended to be in aid of the function of law-making itself.

“There is clearly no suggestion of contemplated legislation in this case. The Senate not only has exceeded the limit of its own authority, but assumed a power which could only be properly exercised by another branch of the government.

“We therefore advise Justice Umar to ignore its invitation as it is of no legal effect whatsoever.

“The Senate in its blind zeal to protect the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who is facing corruption charges before the Tribunal is working hard to destroy the foundation of the country’s constitutional democracy. This is a blatant usurpation of power, and an attack upon the integrity of constitutional government and the rule of law.

“The Senate doesn’t have the power to summon any judge, including Justice Umar. If there is any credible allegation of corruption against Justice Umar, it ought to be dealt with by the appropriate law enforcement agencies and that cannot be the Senate.”

“The Senate can’t lawfully exercise any authority beyond the limits marked out by the constitution. It is manifestly repugnant to constitutional safeguards which assigns to each organ of the government its exclusive functions and a limited sphere of action. This invitation, coming on the heels of the decision by the Tribunal for Saraki’s trial to be conducted day-by-day pursuant to Section 396(6) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, is clearly politically motivated.”

“While the Senate is empowered under Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to conduct an inquiry for the purpose of enabling it to among others make laws, correct any defects in existing laws, expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence, it doesn’t possess the power to get involved in alleged criminal matter.

“The Senate is in no sense a court, police or anti-corruption agency, and for it to attempt to act as one, would bring about insurmountable legal and political problems.”, SERAP said.

Al-Bashir’s Departure: SERAP Seeks Sanctions Against South Africa

Omar al-BashirThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on “the International Criminal Court (ICC) to refer South Africa to the UN Security Council for allowing Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to leave the country, ahead of a court ruling on whether he should be transferred to the ICC to stand trial on genocide and war crimes charges”.

The Executive Director of the organisation, Adetokunbo Mumuni, in a statement said: “If it is true that the government of South Africa has blatantly disregarded the process of its own court to free international fugitive from justice, then there should be consequences otherwise the authority and credibility of the ICC and the entire regime of international justice will be seriously undermined”.

Suspension Or Expulsion

According to SERAP, “the South African authorities told the court that President al-Bashir had gone shopping when they knew that he was already on his way back to Khartoum.

“This is a slap on the wrist, and clearly exposes the judiciary to ridicule and disrespect. It also shows that the government has absolutely no respect for the rule of law and the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

“As provided for by the Rome Statute of the ICC, the court should now request UN Security Council sanctions against South Africa. Under the Rome Statute, the UN Security Council may do what it deems appropriate. Without effective sanctions and repercussions states like South Africa are not likely to be held accountable for breaching their international obligations and commitments,” the organisation said.

It also asked the ICC to work with other states parties to the Rome Statute to consider the possibility of suspension or expulsion of South Africa from the Rome Statute.

The group stressed that the action would send a strong message to other members that their breach of the Rome Statute would have consequences.

“This can give the ICC enforcement mechanisms the much needed legitimacy and authority to effectively pursue international justice and secure remedies for victims,” the organisation further stressed.

Mr Al-Bashir left the African Union Summit for Khartoum, flying out of a military base in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria hours before the Pretoria High Court will rule on whether he should be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), who have charged him with war crimes and genocide.

The Sudanese leader was in Johannesburg for the 25th Assembly of Heads of State and government of the African Union.

On Sunday, the court ordered Mr Al-Bashir not to leave the country until the case had been heard.

 

Ekiti: SERAP Seeks UN Intervention Over Attack On Courts And Judges

SERAPSocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Ms Gabriela Knaul, to use her office and position to urgently investigate recent reports of attack on courts and judges in Ekiti State of Nigeria.

The organisation also wants the UN to make it very clear to the Nigerian Government that it would not “accept intimidation, harassment or any form of attacks against judges and other actors of the justice system.”

In the petition dated 29 September 2014 and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said that, “Apart from violating the rights of the judges to personal dignity and security, the attacks also constitute a threat to the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the entire justice system.

The attacks amount to improper interferences and pressures on the judiciary, and can undermine the smooth function of justice, public’s confidence in the rule of law, effective enjoyment of human rights, and ultimately lead to people taking the law into their own hands.”

According to the organization, “Impunity for such acts of intimidation and harassment can also have a ‘chilling effect’ on other judges, negatively influencing the quality of their work, forcing them to renounce certain kinds of cases, and working in the fear that they or their families may be at risk because of their judicial work.”

SERAP understands that the attacks on courts and judges may have been politically motivated. Any attack against judges is an attack against the constitutional and internationally recognized right of the people to access justice because it aims to discourage judges from exercising their judicial functions independently and impartially, and with utmost integrity and sense of security,” the organization said.

“We are also concerned that attacks, intimidation and threats against judges and lawyers are likely to increase ahead of the general elections early next year. The Nigerian Government has an obligation to provide a conducive environment and to guarantee that judges can do their job without intimidation and without risking their safety,” it added.

SERAP urged Ms Gabriela Knaul to:

  • Publicly condemn the attacks, intimidation and threats against judges in Ekiti State of Nigeria, and call for whoever is suspected to be responsible to be brought to justice promptly

  • Request to visit Ekiti State in order to conduct fact finding mission and to report back to the UN Human Rights Council on findings and action for the Council to take;

  • Ask the Nigerian Government to take measures to ensure effective protection of judges and lawyers and to promote their independence, security and freedoms.

According to reports, Justice John Adeyeye was attacked and his suit tore while hearing a case at the Ado-Ekiti High Court premises. The Ekiti State Chief judge, Justice A. S Daramola also had his courtroom invaded and record shredded.

SERAP Asks F.G To Stop Terror Attacks

SERAPSocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has said that “the unlawful and unnecessary killings of many Nigerians on Monday at the Nyanya Motor Park, Abuja show that the measures the government has been taking to tackle the Boko Haram phenomenon were inadequate and simply not working.

The organization urged the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan to “show leadership and urgently initiate fundamental changes in the security strategy to end continuing civilian casualties, and a climate of insecurity across the country.”

In the statement signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said that, “Nigerians have heard promises from this government before, that it would take all possible steps to prevent bombing tragedies and citizens’ deaths and injuries.  But if this government is to be taken serious, this latest explosion needs to be the last of its kind.

“As a first step, the Government must swiftly, transparently and thoroughly investigate the killings, make the findings public and bring anyone suspected to be involved to justice. “Nigerians are reeling from so much loss, and this government should do everything possible to ensure that disasters like Nyanya Motor Park explosion are not repeated.”

SERAP Asks Jonathan To Invite Anti-graft Agencies To Monitor Spending On Boko Haram

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, urging him to “urgently instruct both the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to monitor government’s spending on the fight against Boko Haram”.

According to the organisation, this would help “to ensure that the funds are spent exactly to end the unnecessary loss of lives and other continuing serious violations of human rights in the north-east.”

In the petition dated February 18, 2014, and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation said that it was “seriously concerned about reports that the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, this week stated that “Boko Haram members were better armed and motivated than Nigerian troops.”

If true, it suggests that colossal sums of security funds that have so far been budgeted to prosecute the fight against Boko Haram have not achieved value for money. SERAP is concerned that the funds may not have been appropriately spent.

Transparency And Accountability

According to the organisation, “If the president is truly determined to end the problem of Boko Haram and the associated human rights violations and sufferings, he should now move to invite the EFCC and ICPC to monitor the spending to fight Boko Haram, including checking leakages in the procurement processes. Otherwise, any such spending will not provide the much needed economic or security benefits, and will merely continue to consume scarce resources needed to address other basic needs of the population.”

“Increasing transparency and accountability in the spending on Boko Haram will also help to improve citizens’ confidence in the ability of the government to end the problem. The government cannot continue to use sensitivity or security concerns as an excuse to avoid the urgent need for transparency and accountability in this respect.

“Lack of transparency in particular creates high vulnerability for corruption, especially in the procurement processes. SERAP believes that transparency and accountability in the management of funds meant to end the problem of Boko Haram is key to efficient and effective security forces capable of responding to Nigerians’ legitimate security needs. Lack of transparency, accountability and general deficiencies in the way the security budget and arms purchases are decided and controlled are likely to be one explanation why the Boko Haram are better equipped and more motivated than the government forces,” the letter read.

The organisation “hopes that the involvement of the anti-corruption agencies would help to avoid excessive, wasteful and corrupt expenditures and procurement.  The National Assembly should also be involved and should be more proactive in exercising its oversight constitutional roles in this respect.”

“By increasing transparency and accountability of the spending on Boko Haram, the President will invariably be putting in place effective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, stability and realisation of citizens’ sacred human rights.  The citizens and National Assembly must be regularly informed about government’s spending on Boko Haram, and the processes that the government is putting in place to improve practices, and to ensure effective investigations and prosecution of any allegations of corruption,” the organisation added.

It further warned that “SERAP will explore other legal options including the Freedom of Information Act to improve transparency and accountability in the spending on Boko Haram, if the President does not act as recommended.”