SERAP Asks Dogara, Other Dis-Honourable Lawmakers To Step Aside Over Budget Padding

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The crisis rocking the Nigerian House of Representatives has worsened again with Nigerian activists on Sunday calling on the embattled Speaker, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, and his alleged ‘gang of evildoers’ to honourably step aside as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, investigates serious allegations that the lawmakers attempted to steal about N40 billion using what is infamously called “budget padding”.

‘Budget padding’ in Nigeria means inflating values of projects, duplicating projects, adding or hiding billions of naira in the budget that end up going to a few powerful lawmakers and government officials. The concept remains very confusing. Many Nigerians are still finding it hard to understand the full meaning of padding the budget.

In statement to TheSimonAtebaNews, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said Dogara and his accomplices cannot remain in office while grave allegations against them are being investigated.

Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin, a lawmaker representing Kano state had alleged before he resigned that Mr. Dogara had connived with his deputy, Mr. Yusuf Lasun, the Chief Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, and the Minority Whip, Mr. Leo Ogor, to earmark to themselves at least N40 billion in the National Assembly budget. The plot had almost succeeded but for his quick intervention, he said.

The lawmakers denied the allegations and described them as the rant of a fallen man who was enraged to have been removed as the chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, a very important committee in the National Assembly. Jibrin had maintained that he was not ousted but resigned to expose evil in the National Assembly.

With allegations and counter-allegations, the EFCC stepped him, according to SERAP.

On Friday, other Nigerian activists said principal officers at the House of Representatives should be immediately investigated over allegations that they had wanted to pad (inflate, manipulate) the 2016 budget for personal gains.

In a statement, Nigeria’s anti-corruption group, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, described the allegations made by the former Chairman, Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and three other principal officers as a “can of worms” that should not be ignored.

CACOL said the allegations should be probed immediately by an external body like the ICPC or the EFCC, two of Nigeria’s main anti-corruption agencies.

On Sunday, other activists under the umbrella of SERAP, said in a statement to TheSimonAtebaNews that they sent an open letter Mr. Dogara on July 29 requesting him and other principal officers “suspected to be involved in the alleged budget padding to step aside pending the outcome of investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other agencies.”

The letter was signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni.

“Following confirmation received by SERAP from the EFCC that it has taken up and looking into SERAP’s petition to the body on the allegations that the leadership of the House of Representatives padded the 2016 budget to the tune of N481 billion, SERAP is now writing to request you to immediately step aside from your position as Speaker of the House of Representatives pending the out outcome of the investigation,” the activists said.

Their letter reads in part: “We also urge you to ensure that other principal officers of the House suspected to be involved in the alleged padding step aside from their positions to allow for the investigation by the EFCC and other agencies to go ahead unhindered.”

“SERAP has also reviewed several documents circulating on the internet on the alleged budget padding and we believe that these documents establish a prima-facie case of corruption, which deserves a thorough, transparent, independent and effective investigation by the EFCC and other agencies.”

“In the circumstances, SERAP calls on you to demonstrate your often-expressed commitment to transparency, accountability, constitutionalism, democratic governance and the rule of law in Nigeria by now stepping aside from your position as Speaker and to ensure that other principal officers suspected to be involved in the budget padding do the same, pending the outcome of the investigation already by the EFCC.”

“SERAP’s call is entirely consistent with the constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). As the supreme law of the land, all organs of government including the National Assembly are obliged to perform their functions in accordance with the constitution and other enabling laws.”

“SERAP agrees with the Constitutional Court of Uganda when it asserted in Constitutional Petition No. 47 of 2011Twinobusingye Severino vs Attorney General that, ‘In modern democracies, the term ‘stepping aside’ is now generally taken as part of the responsibility of the holder of a public office in discharging his or her duty of being accountable to the people. Thus a culture has developed in modern democracies, Uganda inclusive, whereby a Public officer whose conduct in a public office is being questioned steps aside, on his or her own, to enable investigations to be carried out without his or her influence.’”

“Indeed, SERAP believes that the necessity of being accountable to the people, by anyone holding a public office in Nigeria is clearly embedded in the constitution as provided under Chapter 2 titled: Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.”

“Specifically, Chapter 2 provides among others that all public offices shall be held in trust for the Nigerian people; that all persons placed in positions of leadership and responsibility shall in their work be answerable to the people; and that all lawful measures shall be taken to expose, combat and eradicate corruption and abuse or misuse of power by those holding political and other public offices.”

“SERAP believes that the allegations of budget padding by the leadership of the House of Representatives have undermined the status of the National Assembly which is supposed to be the fountain of constitutionalism. The Speaker, as the head of the House, has a big role to play in guiding parliamentarians to embrace transparency by sending a powerful message that allegations of corruption will not be condoned, tolerated or covered up.”

“SERAP believes that the House of Representatives cannot function effectively nor enjoy public trust and confidence as long as the allegations of budget padding continue to trail its leadership.”

“By stepping aside and ensuring that others suspected to be involved in the budget padding also step aside until such a time as the investigations by the EFCC and other agencies are completed, you will be promoting acts that would enhance the integrity and respect for the National Assembly, as well as strict observance of the constitution both in letter and spirit.

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