BY LAJA THOMAS
A Federal High Court, Abuja, has granted leave to the concept owners of Keke NAPEP project, Autobahn Techniques Ltd to apply for an order of mandamus compelling the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr Mohammed Adoke Bello to prosecute officials of National Poverty Eradication Programme, NAPEP, and Keke Owners and Riders Association of Nigeria, KORAN.
The two organisations who were allegedly indicted in the report of the Senate Committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in 2009, as well as, the report of NAPEP Visitation Panel in August 2010. The leave followed an application argued by the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba, on behalf of the plaintiffs.
The suit was filed following failure of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke Bello, to respond to a petition written on April 4, 2011, asking for a fiat to prosecute NAPEP officials and their accomplices allegedly indicted. Worried that the AGF did not act on his earlier letter, Agbakoba wrote a reminder on June 20, 2011 giving the AGF seven days to act on his earlier petition and prosecute the allegedly indicted officials.
It will be recalled that in 2009, the Senate Committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, following series of petitions and public outcries over the activities of NAPEP carried out a probe of the agency and established that the “Keke NAPEP project has been allegedly tainted with corruption”.
According to the report, “the collection and distribution of assembled tricycles was surrounded with lots of shoddy manipulations“. The report further established that “most of the tricycles allocated to the states were diverted to open market and even displayed for sale in some cities at exorbitant prices”.
The Senate Committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation also made specific findings on the mismanagement and conversion of public funds, circumvention of operational guidelines, illegal approval of money for NAPEP officials, engagement of unregistered micro-finance institutions in the disbursement of funds and the use of fake names and unverifiable addresses among others. The Committee recommended that the management of NAPEP should be held responsible for massive criminal misbehaviour and fraudulent conversion of public funds and erring officials sanctioned appropriately.
Also the NAPEP management visitation panel set up by the former National Coordinator, Dr Magnus Kpakol, to investigate some of the allegations of corruption established by the Senate Report made some specific findings which collaborates the report of the Senate Committee. The report established that proceeds of the 3rd phase of the Keke NAPEP project in the sum of N417million has been stolen and converted to personal use.
This case will test the resolve of government to fight corruption especially in the face of President Jonathan’s recent declaration of zero tolerance on Corruption and his order on the ICPC and EFCC to conduct fraud audits on Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies from 2007 to date.