Updated: February 28, 2021
Nigerian activists have sued President Muhammadu Buhari over his failure to investigate his bribery-tainted ally, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project wants Mr Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate allegations of bribery against Ganduje.
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Widely circulated video clips showing Mr Ganduje allegedly receiving bribes hit Nigeria recently but Mr Buhari, who needs to win Kano, the most populous state in northern Nigeria, to secure a second term in office, has looked the other way.
SERAP had in November asked the president to direct the investigation of Mr Ganduje “if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution at the expiration of his tenure as governor.”
The organization also sought protection for the journalist Jaafar Jaafar, who reportedly published the video clips.
However, SERAP said since the receipt of its letter and to date, President Buhari has failed to grant its requests.
Last week, a Kano State high court stopped the Kano State House of Assembly from investigating the $5 million bribery allegation against Mr Ganduje.
As a result, the activists filed a suit last Friday at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.
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SERAP is seeking “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and/or compelling Mr Buhari to immediately direct the investigation of allegations of bribery against Mr Ganduje.”
SERAP said: “The Applicant’s requests are not onerous but simply based on issues of public interest, good governance, transparency and accountability. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application, as the Respondent has nothing to lose if the application is granted.”
The suit is also seeking an order to compel Mr Buhari to “instruct appropriate security and law enforcement agencies to ensure the protection and guarantee the safety and security of journalist Jaafar Jaafar.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Ms. Bamisope Adeyanju read in part: “Investigating allegations of bribery against Mr Ganduje would be entirely consistent with the provisions of section 15 subsection (5) of the 1999 Constitution, which requires the government of the Respondent to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power, regardless of the state where such practices are taking place. The Constitutiondefines ‘government’ to include federal, state and local governments.”
“Growing allegations of corruption against many state governors have not been investigated and several of the governors involved are getting away with their alleged crimes. Granting the reliefs sought would assist the Respondent to succeed in his fight against corruption and help to combat corruption among many state governors, who continue to allegedly mismanage their states’ resources with almost absolute impunity.”
“The Attorney-General of the Federation has power conferred on him by section 174(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and anticorruption agencies have the powers to act on the allegations of bribery against Mr Ganduje for the sake of discharging their mandates, ensuring transparency and accountability, promoting the common good, peace, order and good government of the federation (which includes Kano State).”
“Under the provisions of section5(1)(b) of the Constitution of Nigeria,1999, the Executive powers of the Federation extends to the execution and maintanance of the Constitution which is the grundnorm and all laws made by the National Assembly, including the provisions of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, whichSERAP is requesting the Respondent toeffectively implement.”
“Under Section 61(2) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) Act, a law of general application throughout the country, public officers accused of bribery may be prosecuted by the appropriate authority for such an offence.”
“Although primarily a matter of concern for Kano State, the allegations of bribery against Mr Ganduje have assumed such a proportion as to become a matter of concern to the federation as a whole, and therefore, to the government of the Respondent.”
“Vigorously seeking to enforce anticorruption legislation and the UnitedNations Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party regarding alleged corrupt state governors, will show that the Respondent is concerned with the overall well-being of the federation and willing and able to enforce important constitutional principles.”
“Given the history of corruption in Nigeria, especially unresolved allegations of grand corruption against many state governors, the government of the Respondent cannot and should not look the other way regarding the allegations against Mr Ganduje. Any allegations of bribery and abuse of power in any state of Nigeria is of concern to every Nigerian, and should therefore, be of concern tothe government of the Respondent.”
“It is important to reiterate that a sitting governor can be investigated under Nigerian laws. Any criminal allegation against a sitting governor can and should be investigated pending the time the governor leaves office and loses immunity.”
“SERAP has sufficient legal interest in monitoring the way and manner public funds are being utilized in Nigeria, hence our request for the Respondent to perform his public duty.”
“The Respondent has failed, neglected and refused to instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and/or anti-corruption agencies to investigate Mr Ganduje over the alleged bribery. Given his anticorruption commitments, the Respondent ought to have acted on SERAP’s requests to improve transparency and accountability among state governors.”
“As the Supreme Court of Nigeria stated in Ugwu v. Ararume (2007) 31 WRN 1 at 42: ‘If we want to instill sanity into our human affairs, if we want to entrench unpolluted democracy in our body polity, the naked truth must permeate through the blood, nerve and brain of each and every one of us. Although credit may not always have its rightful place in politics, we should try to blend the two so as to attain a fair, just and egalitarian society where no one is oppressed. Let us call a spade a spade!”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.