CJN urged to appoint independent counsel to probe abandoned projects

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), an advocacy group that works to promote transparency, has asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Dahiru Musdapher, to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the alleged corruption on road projects in Nigeria.

SERAP sent a request to the Chief Justice of Nigeria on Monday, asking him to “urgently use [his] good offices and position to appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations of corruption in the abandoned road and other projects by the Federal Government.”

According to the organization, the request is made “pursuant to Section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000, and the letter and spirit of the Act, and the object and purpose of the 1999 Constitution.”

In the letter dated May 21, 2012, and signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said that “Between 2010 and 2012, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved about 100 projects apparently to improve the development of the country and enhance the living conditions of its citizens. However, virtually all the projects have either been abandoned or not completed on schedule, despite the huge sums of money allocated for the projects.”

“We believe your urgent intervention will contribute to improving the integrity of government and public confidence and trust in their government. It would also serve as a vehicle to further the public’s perception of fairness and thoroughness, and to avert even the most subtle of influences that may appear in an investigation of highly-placed executive officials,” the organisation also said.

SERAP reminded the CJN that “Section 52 of the ICPC Act requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials–at the federal or state level–and to report his findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly”.

“We believe that the highlighted projects have sufficiently demonstrated good cause invariably justifying your intervention in the matter. We therefore urge you to interpret this provision robustly and flexibly in the light of the unique role of the judiciary in the efforts to prevent and combat grand corruption and its destructive effects on the society,” the organization said.

The organization further urged Mr. Musdapher “to be guided not by technicalities of ICPC Act but by the overall public interest involved in the potential successful execution of the projects and the spirit and letter of the constitution. In particular, Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution imposing obligations on high-level public officials to eradicate all corrupt practices and abuse of power, and prohibiting the exploitation of Nigeria ‘s human and natural resources for any reasons other than for the good of the community.”

“In exercising your statutory and constitutional responsibilities, we urge you to work very closely with both the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC),” the organisation also said.

The organization listed a number of incomplete projects around Abuja that had been awarded to contractors, yet constructions had either not been started or were left unfinished. Some of which are:

Contract for the Phase 1 Bwari-Kau Road on the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), approved by the FEC in December 2010 for N3.9b with a proposed completion date of December 2012. SERAP insists that “work has not yet started on the project several months after despite release of money to contractors”.

Another is the contract for three Solid Waste Transfer Stations at Mpape, Apo, and Kubwa in the FCT was awarded by the FEC in January 2011 for N3b. SERAP says that “no work has started yet on the project. In fact, many of the residents in the areas said they have never heard of such a project”.

Another contract was awarded for the supply of 60, 000 units of 240 litres Plastic British Waste Bins by the FEC in September 2010 for N900m. “The bins were meant for the streets of Abuja. But about two years after, the bins are nowhere to be found,” the group said.

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