The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the bribery allegation levelled against Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State by an online newspaper, Daily Nigeria.
In a statement on Sunday, the organisation urged the President to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate the claim without delay.
SERAP also called for the protection and safety of Mr Jaafar Jaafar, the journalist who reportedly published the video clips in which the governor.
Although Governor Ganduje has since denied the allegation, the organisation insisted that he should face prosecution at the expiration of his tenure as governor, if there was relevant and sufficient admissible evidence.
“Given the history of corruption in Nigeria, especially unresolved allegations of grand corruption against many state governors, your government cannot and should not look the other way regarding the allegations against Mr Ganduje,” SERAP said in an open letter dated November 2, 2018 and signed by its senior legal adviser, Bamisope Adeyanju.
It added, “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 to your (Buhari’s) government. The obligations of your government to combat corruption in Nigeria extend to all three tiers of government, namely, the federal government, state government and local government.
“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 your government.”
SERAP further asked the Federal Government to take the recommended steps within 14 days of the receipt of the letter, threatening to institute legal proceedings to compel the government to act in the public interest if it failed to do so.
It stressed that this would help to enhance the government’s fight against corruption and contribute hugely to promoting the public interest and the interest of justice while preventing any abuse of the legal process.
The organisation warned that the government’s failure to act would also undermine the goal of its anti-corruption fight in the country.
The letter read in part: “Vigorously seeking to enforce anti-corruption legislation and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party against alleged corrupt state governors, will show that your government is concerned with the overall well-being of the federation and willing and able to enforce important constitutional principles.
“The Attorney-General of the Federation has power, conferred on him by section 174(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and anti-corruption agencies have the powers to act on the allegations of bribery against Mr Ganduje for the sake of ensuring transparency and accountability, and promoting the common good, peace, order and good government of the Federation (which includes Kano State).
“Taking prompt action on the allegations of bribery against the governor would also be entirely consistent with the provisions of section 15 subsection (5) of the Constitution, which requires your government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power, regardless of the state where such practices take place. Section 15 specifically defines “government” to include the government of the federation, or of any state, or of a local government council or any person who exercises power or authority on its behalf.
“Section 61(2) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC) Act also provides that public officers accused of bribery may be prosecuted by the appropriate authority for such an offence.
“SERAP is concerned that growing allegations of corruption including bribery against many state governors have not been investigated and that several of the governors involved are getting away with their alleged crimes.
“We note that while a governor may enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution, he does not enjoy immunity from investigation. Any criminal allegation against a sitting governor including Mr Ganduje can and should be investigated pending the time the governor leaves office and loses immunity. The findings of such investigation can also be the basis for initiating impeachment proceedings against the governor.