A group, Lawyers in Defence of Democracy [LDD] has written off the Socio – Economic Right And Accountability Project [SERAP] as a non-credible organisation.
Lawyers in Defence of Democracy took the stand in a statement issued on Tuesday and signed by the National Convener, Mr Ohazuruike Tochukwu.
Mr Ohazuruike cited the meeting between the Senate Presidents, Dr Bukola Saraki and select organisations to thrash out the allegation levelled against the Senate over N29 million bogus salaries.
The allegation was levelled by the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay.
Prof. Sagay had lagged that the monthly take home of each Senator is N29 million.
After the meeting, “SERAP could not wait 24 hours to expose its unholy agenda of their paymasters against the National Assembly,” Mr Ohazuruike accused.
He argued that the N29 million claim is evidently untenable taking into cognizance that N29 million monthly multiplied by 109 Senators will amount to N3.16 billion monthly and N37.93 billion per annum as salary for the Senate alone.
He reasoned that this figure is higher than the entire budgetary allocation to the Senate for the year which is less than N32 billion.
Berating SERAP for taking Sagay’s stance without recourse to proper reasoning, he said:
“For SERAP to allude to that fact that the public may not have trust and confidence to embrace such a move except Nigerians know the salaries of the lawmakers is only the view of a group that has an agenda against the anticorruption war.
“SERAP should first have tested the water before coming to such conclusion.”
Exposing SERAP’s perceived naivety, the Lawyers in Defence of Democracy Convener asked:
“Does SERAP know the salary of the EFCC Chairman and all staff of EFCC?
“Does SERAP know the salary of the Chairman of ICPC and all his staff?
“Does SERAP know the salary of the Inspector General of Police, Director General of State Security Service and indeed all other personnel of all the ant-corruption agencies?
“Do Nigerians know these salaries?
“How then could SERAP have come to the opinion that Nigerians will not trust the Senate because they don’t know their salary?”
He, therefore, wondered “how an organization that preaches abolition of the Parliament can at the same time preach democracy”.
Find attached the statement below titled “SERAP Has Put Its Integrity At Stake, Let The Truth Be Told”:
Following allegations by Prof Itse Sagay and a subsequent letter to the Senate President by SERAP, the President of the Senate invited select organisations to lay the entire facts on the table and bury the issue so that frivolous allegations will stop flying in the class of credible persons and organizations.
The meeting was without any media presence which by understanding of all parties was to allow discussions to be frank and open.
Indeed the meeting was frank and sincere because the true picture of certain persons and organizations were exposed and seen.
However, our attention has been drawn to a statement issued by SERAP about the happenings in the meeting and without much ado, we categorically state that the statement by SERAP is not a true representation of what transpired in the meeting.
That statement was at best a disappointment and the integrity SERAP postures it possesses on the outside was put at stake and shattered.
Mr. Timothy Adewale who identified himself as Deputy ‘Executive’ Director of SERAP and who spoke on behalf of the organization eulogized the person of the Senate President more than any other person in attendance.
He praised the Senate President for the changes he has brought to the National Assembly including opening the books of NASS, Public hearing in budgeting, prompt action on the double emolument and other innovations of the Senate President.
In fact he clearly stated that staff of SERAP all changed their views and celebrated the Senate President for the actions he took on the double emolument issue.
On the particular issue of the salary of the lawmakers, Mr. Timothy stopped short of apologizing to the Senate President after admitting the obvious errors of SERAP when the question was put to him if SERAP made simple calculations of the figures reeled out by Prof Sagay.
N29,000,000 (Twenty Nine Million Naira) monthly multiplied by 109 Senators will amount to N3, 161,000,000 (Three Billion One Hundred and Sixty One Million Naira) monthly and N37, 932,000,000 (Thirty Seven Billion Nine Hundred and Thirty Two Million Naira) per annum as salary for the Senate alone and this figure is higher than the entire budgetary allocation to the Senate for the year which is less than N32,000,000,000 (Thirty Two Billion Naira).
During the meeting, it was Dr. Otive Igbuzor, CEO Centre LSD, who attended on the invitation of SERAP to actually lead the SERAP position that drew attention of the meeting that the budget of the National Assembly was about 3% of the total annual budget and that it needed to be brought lower to which the Senate President made commitment to more effectively and transparently utilize the allocation of the Senate and also push for better collaboration with Civil Society on how to achieve the goal.
The Senate President therefore advocated for a monthly interaction between the Senate committee on NGO’s and Civil Society Organizations to make for proactive engagement on issues and also committed to a quarterly meeting with his office and Civil Society Organizations.
Neither SERAP nor any other Organization questioned the Senate President on any issue which was not answered.
In fact the meeting rose with the understanding that the issue of salary of lawmakers had been adequately addressed and laid to rest for good.
It is unfortunate SERAP has gone into the forest to cut firewood and is now on the road shouting about whoever it was that cut the fire wood.
On the issue of Constituency Projects, following allegations by Mr. Eze Onyekpere, the Executive Director Centre for Social Justice that stories from persons high up in the Executive confirm that lawmakers are indulging in fraud by taking monies meant for constituency projects without doing any works, the Senate President was clear that unlike in some foreign countries where money for constituency projects are given cash to the lawmaker, in Nigeria the Executive handles all the money and somebody in the Executive must collude with a lawmaker to commit the crime.
Hence if the Executive can hold its people and do the right thing, it was impossible for any lawmaker to divert money meant for constituency projects.
He went further by asking for Civil Society collaboration to ensure that such ills are eradicated from the system.
Has the Executive ever raised any alarm that any lawmaker collected or diverted money meant for constituency project?
Also unfortunate is the fact that despite the undertaking of SERAP that they will in future while criticizing the National Assembly cease to ridicule the institution of the Parliament and bring the institution to disrepute, SERAP could not wait 24hours to expose its unholy agenda of their paymasters against the National Assembly in the statement they issued.
SERAP by this singular act has shown that it indeed is not a credible organization.
SERAP detests the institution of the Parliament and one wonders how an organization that preaches abolition of the Parliament can at the same time preach democracy.
Again, the Senate President following the trend of discussions called on Civil Society to avail the Senate of information of any Acts of corruption and indeed encourage Nigerians to report such and at the same time pledged to ensure that all reports are investigated transparently while the check on this will be the monthly and quarterly meetings with CSO’s.
For SERAP to allude to that fact that the public may not have trust and confidence to embrace such a move except Nigerians know the salaries of the lawmakers is only the view of a group that has an agenda against the anticorruption war.
SERAP should first have tested the water before coming to such conclusion.
Does SERAP know the salary of the EFCC Chairman and all staff of EFCC?
Does SERAP know the salary of the Chairman of ICPC and all his staff?
Does SERAP know the salary of the Inspector General of Police, Director General of State Security Service and indeed all other personnel of all the ant-corruption agencies?
Do Nigerians know these salaries?
How then could SERAP have come to the opinion that Nigerians will not trust the Senate because they don’t know their salary?
Even after the meeting, some organizations had left and only later heard that SERAP representatives went back to the Office of the Senate President for a group photograph.
Maybe the grouse here is that the Senate President did not offer any brown envelope to SERAP hence the need to push him further by issuing such warped statement to extort money which by the body language of the Senate President was not a consideration on the table.
SERAP is clearly over-rated and this act of blackmail against the person and office of the Senate President if it is their mode of operation will not be allowed to stand.
Not in this meeting that we attended.
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