By Wahab Abdulah with agency reports
LAGOS—THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has dragged the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki to court for paying the salaries of the convicted former Plateau State governor, Senator Joshua Dariye while serving his 10-year jail term.
But in a swift reaction, the Senate President said he lacks the power to unilaterally stop payment of salaries and allowances to Senator Dariye.
To this end, SERAP has prayed the court, seeking for an order restraining the Senate president and the National Assembly Service Commission from paying senator Dariye any further allowances while serving his jail term in Kuje prisons, Abuja.
Joined in the suit filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos as Defendants are: Dariye and the National Assembly Service Commission.
In the suit SERAP is also seeking a declaration that the seat of Sen. Dariye in the Senate, “is automatically deemed vacant, having being convicted and sentenced to a prison term and currently serving jail term and having been absent at the sessions of the Senate for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one-third of the total number of days allowed, and that he is therefore, not entitled to any allowances reserved for a sitting and serving senator.”
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/2146/18, SERAP said: “Mr Saraki and the National Assembly Service Commission are trying to override Nigerian law and the judgment of our court by continuing to pay Mr Dariye’s allowances while he serves out a 10-year prison term and unable to sit and perform the functions of a senator.
“This action undermines the rule of law and is a great moral failure because it sends a message that corruption pays—it’s the opposite of Nigerian Constitutional principles and international obligations.”
“Stopping the Defendants would ensure that only sitting and serving senators are worthy of drawing salaries and allowances from the public treasury. It would also further the public interest and general public confidence in the government it elects.
“By paying Mr Dariye’s allowances while in prison, Mr Saraki and the National Assembly Service Commission have destroyed the efficacy and purpose of Mr Dariye’s conviction and have brought the rule of law and administration of justice into disrepute. SERAP and the public are alarmed by the action of Mr Saraki and the National Assembly Service Commission and they ought to be restrained by this Honourable Court.”
NASS can’t stop paying Dariye — Saraki
In his reaction, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who spoke through his media aide, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu,told PremiumTimes that: “The SP (Senate President) does not have such powers except a request is made to him by the AGF who prosecuted the case and get court judgement. The request will be accompanied by the court judgement. The SP can then refer the matter to the legal department for advice.”