A Federal High Court in Lagos told President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, to instruct security and anti-corruption agencies to forward to him, reports of their investigations into allegations of padding and stealing of N481billion from the 2016 budget by some principal officers of the National Assembly.
The court also ordered Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and/or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to publish the report of their investigations into the alleged fraud and immediately, commence prosecution of indicted lawmakers.
The court also directed Buhari to “halt alleged attempt by some principal officers of the National Assembly to steal N40 billion of the N100 billion allocated by his administration, as ‘zonal intervention’ in the 2017 budget.”
The order by Justice Mohammed Idris, was sequel to a mandamus suit no: FHC/L/CS/1821/2017 brought by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
In his judgement, Justice Idris held that Buhari, in the exercise of his executive powers, has a duty to ensure compliance with the provisions of Article 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and is “expected to use his executive powers for the public good of Nigeria.”
Justice Idris also held that SERAP, “being a human rights non-governmental organisation, has sufficient interest in the way and manner public funds are being utilised in this country.”
He also ordered Buhari “to closely monitor and scrutinise the spending of N131 billion (accrued from increased oil bench mark) allocated for additional non-constituency projects expenditure, to remove the possibility of corruption.”
Reacting to the judgement, SERAP Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale said: “This judgment confirms the pervasive corruption in the budget process and the prevailing culture of impunity of our lawmakers as well as the failure of the authorities to uphold transparency and accountability in the entire budget process and implementation. The judgement is an important step towards reversing a culture of corruption in the budget process that has meant that many of our lawmakers see the budget more as a ‘meal ticket’ to look after themselves than a social contract to meet people’s needs and advance equity and development across the country.”
Adewale said “the judgement is a crucial precedent that vindicates the right to a transparent and accountable budget process and affirms the budget as government’s most important economic policy document, central to the realisation of all human rights including the rights to health, water, and education.”
SERAP filed the suit in 2017, after it received “credible information from multiple sources that the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had completed investigations into allegations of padding of the 2016 budget, completed their reports and indicted some principal officers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and that the accounts of some of the principal officers containing alleged illicit funds have been frozen, and that the case files for the prosecution of those indicted were ready.”