The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, and the Acting Chairman Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, to “jointly and urgently invite senators Godswill Akpabio and Isa Misau for interrogation and further questioning over alleged diversion of constituency projects”.
It said: “If the ICPC and EFCC consider the recovered hospital equipment and six tractors allegedly diverted for the personal use of the senators as relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, we urge you to promptly begin prosecution of the senators.”
Last week, the ICPC stated that it recovered from the premises and farmland allegedly belonging to the senators some equipment meant for constituency projects in some local government areas of Akwa Ibom and Bauchi states.
In a petition, dated August 2 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Inviting those suspected to be involved for interrogation and further questioning, and for them to promptly face prosecution, as appropriate, would show that no one is above the law. It would be entirely consistent with the exercise of your mandates to combat corruption and with both the spirit and the letter of the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”
SERAP expressed “concern that these cases illustrate the growing allegations of massive corruption in constituency projects and the importance of not only monitoring the projects but thoroughly and effectively investigating reported cases of corruption and promptly bringing suspected perpetrators to justice”.
It added: “When members of the National Assembly divert constituency projects for personal use, the essence of such projects is defeated, and the integrity of the mechanism compromised.”
The petition, which was copied to the Chairman of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay, reads: “Corruption in the provision of public services, such as healthcare, affects and distorts the delivery of services and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
“As the recoveries by the ICPC have shown, cases of corruption in constituency projects cause under-provision, divert public resources, or simply limit access to public services or make them unavailable.
“SERAP notes Section 15(5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to the effect that ‘The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.’ Similarly, the UN Convention Against Corruption, to which Nigeria is a state party, requires the authorities to ensure effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions and penalties for corruption.
“The allegations of diversion of constituency projects by public officers have weakened public confidence in the effectiveness of the mechanism, as currently implemented, to deliver essential public services to those most in need. Unresolved allegations of corruption in constituency projects would significantly contribute to impunity for grand corruption in Nigeria and pose a serious threat to probity in public life, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
“Allegations of corruption in constituency projects meant to be implemented for the common good and not the personal gains of lawmakers would ultimately undermine the principles of representative and accountable government that act in the public interest, and equality and fairness.
“Corruption in the health sector or provision of support to farmers unfairly punishes the poor, and depresses living standards and opportunities for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged population.”
Giving the background to the alleged violations, SERAP said: “The ICPC reported that it recovered hospital equipment, meant for constituency project, on the premises of Mma Obot Foundation, which is allegedly owned by Godswill Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom.
“Among the recoveries are: dialysis machine, ECG monitor, oxygen regulator, anaesthetic machines, generators and other hospital equipment meant for a cottage hospital in Ukana, Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
“The ICPC also recovered six tractors from a farm belonging to Isa Hamman Misau, a senator who represented Bauchi Central. The tractors were meant for the use of farmers in six local government areas of Bauchi Central Senatorial District. The items were recovered during ICPC’s tracking of constituency projects around the country.
“The tractors formed part of the N430 million contract for the supply of pumping machines and other agricultural machinery to farmers in the senatorial district, which was awarded in 2015 by the Federal Government as part of the senators’ constituency projects across the nation. The sum of N76.6 million was said to have been paid for the tractors in December 2015, and the equipment were supplied in March 2016.”