The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has filed a lawsuit against the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, over their failure to publish reports of all completed public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly.
SERAP is also suing NASS for not disclosing the number of probes that have resulted in any indictment of suspects.
In the suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is arguing that, “The court ought to compel Lawan and Gbajabiamila to publish the reports of hearings and probes and to send the reports to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for prosecution. 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 personal interest, rather than the general public interests.”
SERAP is also arguing that, “Nigerians have the right to information, as guaranteed under Section 39(1) of the constitution of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which the country has ratified and domesticated as part of its national laws.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, readd in part, “There is no legally justifiable reason why the information should not be made widely available to Nigerians, and why the prosecution of indicted suspects should not be pursued, where there is relevant admissible evidence.
“Public officers are mere custodians of public records. There is legitimate public interest in the publication of the reports of these public hearings and probes. The public hearings and probes can only serve as effective mechanisms to prevent and combat corruption if their reports are widely published.
“The exercise of oversight functions and powers by the National Assembly to conduct public hearings and corruption probes in MDAs should be regarded as a public trust. The National Assembly has a unique opportunity to enhance the integrity of its oversight functions on corruption matters in particular, and other constitutional roles, in general.”
SERAP prayed the court to compel Lawan and Gbajabiamila to send all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there was sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution and 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 Niger Delta Development Commission and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).”
The suit followed recent public hearings by the National Assembly on corruption allegations in ministries, departments and agencies, including the NDDC and NSITF.
The outcomes and reports of the public hearings and corruption probes have remained secret and the allegations unresolved.