By Beifoh Osewele
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has disagreed with the claim by the Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, that “budget padding is not a crime under Nigerian law.”
Abdulmumin Jibrin, former chairman of the appropriations committee had alleged that Speaker Dogara, three other principal officers and 10 committee chairmen illegally inserted 2,000 projects totalling N248 billion into the 2016 budget. Jibrin demanded that the Dogara resigns as Speaker.
But Dogara told State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari last week, that budget padding was not an offence, hence he would not resign.
“I am lawyer and the speaker, and I have never heard of the word padding. What does ‘padding’ mean? What is padding? You haven’t told me. Ask Jibrin what padding is. For me, I studied law and I have been in the legislature and all this period I have never heard of the word ‘padding’ being an offence under any law. If I don’t know, you are the media; research the law and let me know,” he snapped.
But SERAP in a statement yesterday signed by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, described budget padding as “a crime of corruption”, and asked Dogara to resign to pave the way for independent investigations into Jibrin’s allegations.
“Budget padding in fact is corruption, as it is implicit in corruption offences such as abuse of office, attempt to embezzle, divert, and misappropriate public funds, conspiracy to act corruptly, and illicit enrichment, which are recognized under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party, and included in national legislation such as the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act and the Fiscal Responsibility Act.”
The statement read further: “The allegations against Mr Dogara and other principal officials of the House of Representatives also suggest a subversion of the budget process, which in itself is a crime but also a fundamental breach of constitutional provisions and an affront to internationally recognized human rights.”
“A prima-facie case of corruption is established when elected officials are allegedly influenced to act contrary to their obligations of office by the prospect of financial gain to themselves. Budget padding also amounts to corruption as the action is against the public interest. Any appearance of corruption in the budget process can result in a cynical public to losing interest in political participation altogether. And democracy can’t work unless Nigerians have faith in those who govern.
“If Mr Dogara refuses to resign to allow for effective and transparent investigation and the allegations of budget padding are swept under the carpet, the ability of the House of Representatives to function as a watchdog and credible guardian of the public interest would be seriously compromised.”
“The allegations of budget padding and abuse of office by the Speaker and principal officials of the House of Representatives have continue to outrage the public, bringing the House’s integrity further into question.
“Mr Dogara therefore has a duty to explain to Nigerians the role he played in the alleged budget padding in the House and abuse of office if the growing perception of corruption in the House is to be addressed.
“Nigerians would like Mr Dogara to explain how the funds meant for legislative functions to service guest houses were spent. Nigerians would also like Mr Dogara to explain allegations that favours were sought from multinational companies including the allegation that a construction company was compelled to carry out some work at his Asokoro ‘plot’.
“The truth about the alleged budget padding and abuse of office cannot be kept from the public, and treated as an internal matter or a case of see no evil, speak no evil.
“The more the leadership of the House of Representatives recoils and resists Nigerians’ calls for investigation and accountability for those involved in the alleged budget padding and abuse of office, the more Nigerians will turn on the House of Representatives, and the calls for those involved to step down and for an independent and transparent investigation and prosecution will only get stronger.”
… No reason for him to resign -NANS
From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) yesterday declared support for Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, saying he has no reason to resign.
Speaking during a press conference in Abuja, Acting National President of NANS, Prince Miaphen said the support of the association was hinged on “the unprecedented manner Dogara has engaged students and young people.” The NANS leader who described the allegations against Dogara as “fictitious”, cited the example of Dogara’s regular engagements with students and his support for legislation seeking to enhance youths participation in politics to support the stand.
Also, the Northern Youth Integrity Forum (NYIF) called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ignore the petition submitted to it against Dogara by Jibrin.
According to NYIF’s National Coordinator, Kabiru Amadu Miaphen, “As we restate our resolution of confidence in the diligent and patriotic leadership of Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, we call on all members of the House of Representatives to ignore all forms of fictitious and contrived allegations being spurn against the Speaker, but rather give him and the entire House leadership undivided support to pilot the affairs of the Green Chambers for the advancement of democracy and development of our great Nation.”