A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Ekpo Nta to “urgently and transparently investigate allegations of corruption in Lagos State Councils and to bring to justice suspected perpetrators”.
The petition followed a government audit of 57 local councils in Lagos State, which allegedly indicted eight councils of stealing and mismanaging at least N224 millions of public funds on a range of questionable expenditures and unimplemented contracts.
In the petition dated November 24, and signed by SERAP’s Senior Staff Counsel, Olukayode Majekodunmi, the group expressed “serious concern about the content of 2012 government audit report and the inability of the government to fully and effectively address the issues raised by the report”.
“This situation can only continue to exacerbate the increasing level of violation of the citizens’ internationally recognized economic and social rights including the right to adequate food, to quality education, to water, and to accessible and adequate health services,” the group said.
The group also said that, “Large-scale corruption such as the one mentioned above exposes majority of the citizens to a “double jeopardy”- on the one hand these people are subjected to hardship of immense proportion; while they are also denied the freedom to explore, on the basis of free enterprise, novel and legitimate ways towards individual development and prosperity, the most convenient path out of absolute poverty.”
According to the group, “The allegations also constitute grave breaches of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Act 2000 and the UN Convention against Corruption which Nigeria has ratified. Specifically, sections 16 and 19 of the Corrupt Practices Act would appeared to have been violated going by the clear contents of the audit report. The UN Convention against Corruption contains similar prohibitions, and imposes clear obligations on Nigeria to investigate allegations of corruption such as the present case; prosecute suspected perpetrators and ensure return of the proceeds of corruption.”
The group also urged Mr. Nta to use his leadership position to ensure that the allegations are fully and transparently investigated, and that the findings of the investigation are made public.
According to the group, “the audit assessment reportedly accused the following Local Councils of wasting public funds: Agbado Oke –Odo, Surulere, Coker-Aguda, Egbe-Idimu, Eredo, Iba, Ikosi-Isheri and Lagos Island East. The report also established cases of corrupt practices and other cases of financial recklessness in Eti Osa, Mainland and Somolu and some other local councils failed to remit statutory deductions from contracts awarded to the tune of N40.9m.”
“In Surulere, auditors reportedly found that N17.5m as against the agreed N12.8m which was the 30 percent of the mobilization sum was paid to a contractor for the installation of a Colour Led Display solution screen at Masha Road, Lagos State Water Corporation Junction in the local government. Even so, the project has not taken off since February 2011 when the agreement was signed. The report also mentioned spurious expenditure totalling N1.3m was made by staff on behalf of the Local Council,” the group also said.
“At Egbe-Idimu LCDA, a total of N29.1m was unaccounted for, according to the audit report. The officials at Eredo LCDA also made unauthorized excess expenditure totalling N15m in 2012 just as 52 payment vouchers amounting to N30.2m and duly paid and posed in treasury cashbook were not produced for audit verification. The report also indicted officials of Iba LCDA for overpayment of security allowance to the chairman to the tune of N2m in 2012,” the group added.
Senior Staff Counsel