By Ola Kehinde-Balogun
Rights activist and lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana has denounced the involvement of the Department of Security Service (DSS) in the investigation of the alleged padding of the 2016 budget by the leadership of the House of Representatives.
Falana, in a statement, yesterday, bemoaned the inclusion of the DSS in what he called “usurpation of the statutory duties of the Police and the anti graft agencies.”
The legal icon said DSS lacks both moral and legal justification to investigate matters that are not threatening the internal security of the country.
“Having regard to the recent activities of the DSS and the clear provisions of the relevant laws on investigation of corruption and other economic and financial crimes, the DSS lacks the moral right and legal powers to interfere in the investigation of the criminal allegation of padding of the budget in any manner whatsoever. Having just arrested and detained the principal officers and administrative staff of the Zamfara State House of Assembly for having the temerity to embark on the impeachment of Governor Mohammed Yari on grounds of alleged corrupt practices the DSS cannot be trusted with the investigation of the monumental scandal which is currently rocking the House of Representatives.
“More importantly, by virtue of the provisions of the National Security Agencies Act the powers of the DSS are strictly limited to the ‘preservation and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria. Since the padding of the national budget is a straight forward case of economic crime which is not concerned with the internal security of the nation, the DSS should not play into the soiled hands of the criminal suspects in the House of Representatives as they may later turn round to challenge the legal validity of any criminal charge arising from a faulty investigation report.”
Considering the weighty allegation on the highly placed political figures in the House of Representatives involved in the alleged illegal budget-padding, Falana said appropriate care must be taken to ensure a due justice is done to the nation, even as he said the DSS must be called to order.
“The DSS is alleged to have usurped the statutory duties of the Police and the anti-graft agencies by taking over the investigation of the padding of the budget. Based on the illegal decision to take over the investigation the DSS is reported to have sealed off the office of the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives. The Police and the anti-graft agencies should be allowed to get to the root of the criminality of budget padding in the National Assembly,” he added.
Falana also asked that the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives be compelled to set out the details of the 2016 budget of the National Assembly in order to facilitate and accelerate the investigation. The legal icon pointed out that the investigation must be extended to involve “alleged criminal diversion of over N300 billion via constituency projects purportedly executed by past and serving federal legislators.”
Falana declared that a thorough investigation be carried out and all the indicted suspects be charged to court while the funds allegedly stolen by them be recovered.
“The top civil servants who colluded with the legislators to alter the 2016 National Budget should be handed over to the Police and anti graft agencies for investigation and prosecution. This is the time to stop looting of the treasury through the padding of the budget by civil servants, ministers and legislators,” he added.