Civil right groups in the country have accused the National Assembly of allegedly making conscious efforts to frustrate the anti-corruption drive. They have also accused the lawmakers of being over-protective of criminal suspects identified as key suspects in notable cases of graft and outright stealing.
In a joint statement issued recently in Abuja, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre); Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER); Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) cautioned the members of parliament not to use their privileged positions to undermine the anti-corruption drive.
According to the statement, “The current National Assembly, especially the Senate, may be the worst in recent history of Nigeria. In terms of the battle against corruption, the National Assembly have not only taken the back seat, they have become a potential willing tool in the hands of those who want to keep Nigeria on the dark spot of maladministration.”
The rights groups stated that “a tiny but powerful section of the National Assembly has constituted itself into a rogue cell with the main agenda of stifling the anti-corruption campaign of the relevant institutions.
“The National Assembly of any truly transparent democratic nation should partner in frustrating corruption and ineptitude. But in Nigeria, there is a consistent pattern on the part of the National Assembly to create hurdles and deliberately prevent a paradigm shift from the culture of impunity and stealing of public funds to a regime of transparency in the conduct of public affairs”, the civil right groups stated.
They accused the lawmakers of creating unnecessary drama and diversions under the guise of promoting the rule of law, “whereas the main agenda is to stunt the transformation of Nigeria from a hopelessly corrupt country to a new nation where guzzling of public funds will be a thing of the past.”
The groups listed various instances in which the leadership and members of the upper house have risen in defense of corrupt public officials and a consistent pattern of taking arbitrary actions like constituting the parliament into an authority with the right to indirectly determine the legal status of high profile cases of corruption.
“The House on a number of occasions have been providing safe haven for corrupt officials, giving orders to unfreeze the accounts of suspects and even issuing orders to undermine investigations of anti-corruption agencies. All these suggest that the National Assembly is hands in gloves with many corrupt individuals and institutions”, the groups alleged.
To buttress their points, the groups also listed the following: The sponsorship of the NGOs Regulation bill; the proposal by some lawmakers of the immunity clause for members of the National Assembly; the orchestrated plot to scuttle the trial of the Senate President by the Code of Conduct Bureau, and the refusal to confirm the Chairmanship of the EFCC
They also listed the suspension of a Senator who called attention to public perception of members of the Senate; an attempt by the Senate to summon the Code of Conduct Tribunal over the Trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki; the summon and attempt at embarrassing the Controller General of Customs who impounded unauthorised armoured bullet-proof vehicles allegedly imported by the Senate President.
Other issues listed by the groups included “directing the EFCC to unfreeze an account belonging to a suspect, Patience Jonathan, in a matter that is before a competent Court of Jurisdiction; and conspiring with a fugitive, Abdur-rasheed Maina, to falsely accuse the EFCC of mismanaging phantom 222 recovered properties.”
The groups frowned on the surreptitious attempt by the same Parliament to constitute itself into a shield and safe haven for suspects in the name of legislative interventions.
They also challenged the legislators to provide similar urgency to the plights of ordinary Nigerians who are faced with daily intractable numbers of violations and who end up as ultimate victims of the same suspects the parliament strive to protect.
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