Stop interfering in Patience Jonathan’s investigations, SERAP urges National Assembly

A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged the National Assembly to withdraw its directives to some banks to unfreeze former first lady Patience Jonathan’s accounts.
Accounts and persons linked to Mrs. Jonathan are being investigated by the anti-graft agency, EFCC.
The two chambers of the National Assembly, through their respective committees, had ordered the affected banks to unfreeze accounts belonging to former First Lady, Patience Jonathan.
According to the Senate public petitions committee, the accounts were frozen without specific restriction orders from any competent court of law and some of the accounts were frozen ”based on administrative lapses.”
But in a statement on Sunday, signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Timothy Adewale, the organization said that the directives to banks to unfreeze Mrs Jonathan’s accounts amounts to ”mingling of the executive and judicial powers in the National Assembly.”
“Checks and balances should ideally help contribute to the rule of law and strengthening our democratic dispensation.
“But if one branch of government grows too strong and overreaching, the country might be in trouble,” the statement said.
Mr. Adewale said it was an affront to constitutional democracy for the National Assembly to turn itself into a tool for checkmating the Nigeria’s justice system, especially ”the prosecution of grand corruption.”
“Rather than helping Mrs Jonathan’s desire to achieve justice for what she may consider being violations of her human rights, such directives are doing exactly the opposite and politicising the criminal justice process.”
The statement added, “Nigerians are concerned about their lawmakers’ thirst for power, and about the National Assembly aggrandizing its legislative powers without sufficient checks and constitutional scrutiny and validity.”
The group also said the National Assembly ought to focus the exercise of its legislative powers solely on making laws for the peace, order and good government of the country, addressing only matters of prime national concern, and when necessary, checking the excesses of the executive branch.
Part of the statement read: “The directives purportedly unfreezing the accounts of Mrs Jonathan will not give the public the confidence that the National Assembly will change its ways and embrace the rule of law.”
“The National Assembly should not show itself as incapable and unwilling to address the concerns of Nigerians about its operations and apparent lack of transparency. These kinds of interventions by the National Assembly could portray our lawmakers in the eyes of Nigerians as forgetting what they are in Abuja to do.
“The Senate and House of Representatives should advise Mrs Jonathan to seek appropriate judicial remedies if she feels the criminal justice mechanisms have violated her human rights. That’s the essence of the rule of law, separation of powers and checks and balances. The supposed directives to banks have unfortunately again put the reputation of the National Assembly at stake.
“What Nigerians want and deserve is a balanced sharing of constitutional powers for the sake of the public good, and not ‘Imperial National Assembly’, a National Assembly that sits on its throne in Abuja and treats Nigerians as serfs in their fiefdoms.”
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