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Group urges Buhari to prosecute beneficiaries of alleged N17b election expenses


President Muhammadu Buhari. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to prosecute those found culpable in the N17 billion allegedly paid to National Assembly members as ‘election expenses’ to pass the 2015 budget.
In an open letter to President Buhari, a copy of which was made available to The Guardian yesterday, the group asked the President to direct the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) or the anti-corruption agencies to investigate the alleged payment of N17 billion to the National Assembly without further delay.
It also urged the President to instruct the Attorney General or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to publish the report of their investigation, including the names of those who may have benefited from the funds, and ensure the recovery of the money.
“We will institute legal proceedings to compel your government to act in the public interest if these steps are not taken within 14 days of the receipt and (or) publication of this letter,” the letter reads.
Former Minister of Finance under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had alleged on page 80 of her book titled: Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous, that “N17 billion was forced into the budget for election expenses of members of the National Assembly with the agreement of its leadership. The funds became the price to pay to have the 2015 budget passed.”

But in the letter signed by SERAP deputy director, Timothy Adewale, the group said: “The allegation of budgeting N17 billion as election expenses of lawmakers suggests a fundamental breach of article 15 of the United Nations (UN) Convention against Corruption, which Nigeria ratified. “Using public funds as election expenses of lawmakers is contrary to the convention, which prohibits bribery and requires the authorities to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds,” the letter further reads.

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