SERAP wins round one in battle to compel Saraki, Dogara to account for N500bn ‘running cost’

Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara (Left), President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki (right)
Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara (Left), President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki (right)

There is prospect Nigerians keen on knowing how exactly the National Assembly is run may soon have some answers, as The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has won the latest round in the legal battle to compel the Senate President, Bukola Sakari, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to account for the spending of N500 billion as running cost for the legislative body between 2006 and 2016, and disclose monthly allowances of each member.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Friday ruled that, “I have looked at the papers filed by SERAP and I am satisfied that leave ought to be granted in this case for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and compelling Saraki and Dogara to account for the spending of the running cost and disclose the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member.”

Justice Aikawa granted the order for leave following the hearing of an argument in court on exparte motion by SERAP counsel, Bamisope Ibidolapo.

The suit numbers FHC/L/CS/1711/16 and FHC/L/CS/1710/16 filed last December followed disclosure by Abdulmumin Jibrin that Nigerian Senators and House of Representatives members had pocketed N500 billion as ‘running cost’ out of the N1 trillion provided for in the National Assembly budgets between 2006 and 2016, and by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that each Senator goes home with nothing less than N15m monthly while each member receives nothing less than N10m monthly.

The order by Justice Aikawa has now cleared the way for SERAP to advance its case against the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The motion on notice is set for Tuesday 12 December, 2017 for the hearing of argument on why Messrs Saraki and Dogara should not be compelled to publish details of the spending on the running of the National Assembly and the exact monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member.

The suits read in part: “Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules made to regulate matters”.

“The Defendants will not suffer any injury or prejudice if the information is released to the members of the public. It is in the interest of justice that the information be released. Unless the reliefs sought herein are granted, the Defendants will continue to be in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, and other statutory responsibilities.”

“Up till the time of filing this action the Defendants/Respondents have failed, neglected and/or refused to make available the information requested by SERAP. The particulars of facts of the failure, negligence and refusal are contained in the verifying affidavit in support of the application and shall be relied upon at the hearing of this application. The Defendants/Respondents have no reason whatsoever to deny SERAP access to the information sought for.”

“By virtue of Section 1(1) of the FOI Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution. Under the FOI, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”

“The information requested for by SERAP relates to information about spending of N500 billion as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member. The information requested by SERAP does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of National interest, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.”

“It is submitted that Section 4(a) of the FOI Act 2011 is a mandatory and absolute provision which imposes a binding legal duty or obligation on a public official, agency or institution to comply with a request for access to public information or records except where the FOI Act expressly permits an exemption or derogation from the duty to disclose. Nigerian courts have consistently held that the use of mandatory words such as “must” and “shall” in a statute is naturally prima facie imperative and admits of no discretion.”

The suits are respectively seeking the following reliefs:

  1. A DECLARATION that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents to disclose the spending of N500 billion as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member amounts to a breach of the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability and violates Articles 9, 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.
  2. A DECLARATION that by virtue of the provisions of Section 1 (1) and Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Defendants/Respondents are under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up to date information on the spending allowances of each Senator and member including: Details of projects on which the N500 billion running cost between 2006 and 2016 were spent.
  3. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS directing and or compelling the Defendants/Respondents to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up to date information on the spending of N500 billion as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member including: Details of projects on which the N500 billion running cost between 2006 and 2016 were spent.

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  • God dey

    Excellent news! In a normal society Saraki and Dogara should voluntarily disclose the information SERAP is seeking and show accountability. But regrettably not in my country Nigeria. What a bunch of legislooters and joke of a wasted generation

    • Gary

      It is really shameful that a lawsuit has to be launched to get the elected representatives of the Nigerian people to disclose their emoluments.
      Speaker Dogara is a Lawyer I gather and Senate President Saraki a Western-trained medical doctor no less.
      Yet both men have persisted in maintaining the vile and nefarious tradition of concealing the accounts and payments of the National Assembly.
      We cannot practice democracy without democrats. Nor condemn Executive rascality and corruption while condoning same from the Legislature or the Judiciary.
      Refusing to divulge how much our legislators pay themselves from the nation’s Treasury is a flagrant act of corruption.

      Shame on you Dogara and Saraki, and those of us who believed that you were better than you have turned out in ushering an era of transparency and educated leadership at the National Assembly.
      You will now get opprobrium not praise, if it takes a court order for you to do the right thing. Shame.

      • God dey

        You’ve said it all. It’s really a shame. And to think that these legislooters are getting away with it is beyond me

  • Dawood

    SERAP should not celebrate. Thieving Dogara and Saraki will find a way to bribe the judge, or threaten bogus investigation.

  • NwaIgbo

    Nigerian’s National Assembly is the bottomless pit of corruption killing Nigeria. Is that the people that will allow Nigeria to be restructured-no way. The obscene wealth of these no conscience rogues is mind boggling who will do every thing to keep their ATM running. Could SERAP be our only hope?

  • Watch man

    This is a good development. But my concern is that I see the bandits that selected and installed themselves in NASS making sure that this case drags till the end of this administration until the case is thrown out for lack of merit. That country Nigeria is an enigma ruled by insane “leaders” whose heads may be likened to ‘animal heads’. So disgraceful!