The National Assembly is an important arm in the triangular governance structure of Nigeria. As the arm of government responsible for making laws for the country, and following up with oversight functions to ensure compliance by other arms of government, the centrality of the National Assembly in a democracy cannot be overstated.
Within the National Assembly, the Senate is the lead chamber responsible for many important decisions of the law-making body. This also places the Senate President, as the Chairman of the National Assembly. It is for these reasons that we choose to address this letter to you, and by extension the 108 other Senators.
Recall that through individual citizens and coalitions of civil society organisations, Nigerians have for a long time been expressing desire for a National Assembly that is responsive, responsible and fully accountable to the people whose interests the members ought to represent.
However, with all the entreaties, advocacies and agitations,the Senate has failed to lead in providing the needed leadership for a more accountable system both within the National Assembly and in the larger governance architecture.
It is in furtherance of these agitations that we find it expedient to once again engage the Senate leadership on these pro-people demands as enumerated below:
1. Opening-up the National Assembly budget to public scrutiny:
Transparency is key to operating an orderly and accountable system. It is an essential ingredient in the fight against corruption. It is for this reason that citizens in a democracy have a fundamental right to know and ask questions where necessary. For this same reason,Nigerians have been advocating for openness and accountability in the operations of government. It is commendable that the 8th National Assembly recently compelled such hitherto opaque agencies like FIRS, CBN and NNPC to subject their budget to scrutiny. It is,therefore, important that the National Assembly follows the rule it has set for other agencies and institutions by making its own budget open for public scrutiny.
2. Cutting running cost:
The Senate has been accused of maintaining a bloated budget. Considering the prevailing economic situation in the country, we urge it to do an immediate review of its budget and spending, streamlining it in consonance with not only the present realities of the country but the everyday living conditions of majority of Nigerians.
3. Commitment to transparency and accountability through asset declaration:
We urge you and other principal officers of the Senate to show commitment to transparency and accountability by publicly declaring your assets. We demand urgent status declaration of pensions and gratuities received by former Governors and Deputy governors presently in the Red Chamber and receiving multiple housing and transportation allowances both as former state executivesand serving Senators. We also urge you as the leader of the National Assembly to set an example by making your declaration of asset public.
4. Investigate allegation of corruption against the Senate leadership:
You would recall that a few weeks ago, a rights group, Citizens Action to Take Back Nigeria (CATBAN) accused you, your deputy, as well the Speaker of the House of Representatives and his deputy, of using the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to perpetrate financial fraud totaling over six hundred and thirty million Naira. For the sake of probity and the integrity of the Senate, we urge an independent inquiry into the allegations. Such unattended accusations have the unsavory effect of undermining the public standing of this important organ of governance.
5. Demonstrate commitment to the fight against corruption:
One of the cardinal objectives of the current government of which you are a principal officer is the fight against corruption. You will agree that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is central to the government’s anti-corruption effort. As the leader of a Senate that has on several occasions expressed its commitment to the war against corruption, it is important that you put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure that the issue of a substantive chairman for the EFCC is dealt with as expeditiously and transparently as possible.
6. Expedite the passage of the Special Crimes Courts Billand other anti-corruption related bills.
The objective of the Special Crimes Courts Bill, as stated in its title, is: “An Act to provide for the establishment of a Special Crimes Court as a superior court of record to allow for speedy trials of certain offences, including economic and financial crimes, terrorism, money laundering, corruption offences and for related matters.”The lack of passage of this bill and other related bills is delaying the adjudication of criminal cases. It is, therefore, imperative to have these specialized courts and other laws enacted in good time.
7. Sir, we respectfully demand immediate action on the issues raised hereabove. These actions must go beyond the usual platitudes and politically correct assurances. This is a first step in pressing for these demands. We are, therefore, giving the Senate two weeks from the date of this letter, to show good faith in addressing the issues raised above.
8. If the Senate fails to act swiftly on these issues, we will be left with no option but to mobilize Nigerians from all walks of life to mount an occupation of the Senate.
Do accept, distinguished Senate President, the assurances of our highest regards.
Olanrewaju Suraju: Civil Society Network Against Corruption
Jibrin Ibrahim, PhD:
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani – Executive Director – Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
Eze Nwagwu - Say No Campaign
Faith Nwadishi – Executive Director – Centre for Gender and Development
Yunusa Zakari Ya’u: Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
Chido Onumah – Coordinator – African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL)
Naseer Kura – Executive Director – Basic Rights Action (BRA)
Debo Adeniran – Executive Director – Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL)
Kemi Okenyodo: Partners WestAfrica, Nigeria
Ibrahim Modibbo – Executive Director – Democrats of Conscience
Shamsideen Yusuf – Centre for Democracy and Development
Muhammed Attah - Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative
Dr. George-Hill Anthony - Niger-Delta Budget Monitoring Group
Dr. Bunmi Awoyemi - Citizen United for Peace and Stability (CUPS)
Emeka Betram – Executive Director – Person with Disabilities Action Network (PEDANET)