probe alleged misuse of N4.5bn COVID-19 funds by Kogi govt, says SERAP to Buhari

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate alleged misuse of funds worth N4.5 billion by the Kogi State government.

SERAP stated that “if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, anyone suspected to be involved should face prosecution, as appropriate.”

In the letter dated 27 March 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Directing the Attorney General of the Federation and appropriate anti-corruption agencies as recommended is constitutional, and would be entirely consistent with your promise in your inaugural speech to ‘ensure responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country.’”

SERAP quoted Buhari as promising in his inaugural speech on 29th May 2015 that: “The Federal Government would not fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. It will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked.”

According to this promise, SERAP stated, it is the President’s duty to combat corruption in all three tiers of government.

The letter, read in part: “Although primarily a matter of concern for Kogi State, the allegations of misuse of COVID-19 funds drawn from the Federal Government have assumed such a proportion as to become a matter of concern to the federation as a whole, and therefore, to your government.”

“SERAP is concerned about growing allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds in several of the 36 states of the Federation, and the apparent lack of prompt, thorough, independent and transparent investigations into these allegations, allowing suspected perpetrators to frequently escape justice.”

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“Taking prompt action to probe the allegations would promote transparency and accountability, serve the common good, peace, order and good government of the federation (which includes Kogi State). It would help to enhance your government’s fight against corruption and contribute hugely to improving the public confidence and trust in your commitment to combating grand corruption.”

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request.”

“SERAP also believes that given the history of corruption in Nigeria, especially several unresolved allegations of grand corruption involving many of the 36 state governments, your government cannot and should not look the other way regarding the allegations of misuse of COVID-19 funds involving the Kogi State government. Such allegations in any state of Nigeria are of concern to every Nigerian, and should therefore be of concern to your government.”

“Taking the recommended measures would also show that your government is concerned with the overall well-being of the federation and willing and able to enforce important constitutional principles.”

According to the letter, the Kogi State Government in 2020 allegedly spent N90,720,000 on ‘COVID-19 software.’

SERAP also alleged that the software was reportedly approved by Governor Yahaya Bello, for tracking COVID-19 cases and prevent the spread of the disease in the state. However, according to SERAP, the company that developed the software has reportedly stated that it costs only N300,000.

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