Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has criticised Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, for claiming that he has “never heard of the word ‘padding’ being an offence under any law”.
Dogara, who is being accused by Abdulmumin Jibrin, former Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee of ‘padding’ the 2016 budget, had said budget padding is not an offence, hence he won’t resign.
“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.”
Responding via a statement yesterday, SERAP not only defined budget padding as “a crime of corruption”, it also demanded Dogara’s resignation 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 allegations against Dogara and other principal officials of the House 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-recognised 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,” a statement signed by Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP’s Executive Director, noted.
SERAP noted that any appearance of corruption in the budget process could result in a cynical public losing interest in political participation altogether, even though democracy cannot work unless Nigerians have faith in those who govern them.
“If 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 to function as a watchdog and credible guardian of public interest would be seriously compromised.
“The allegations of budget padding and abuse of office by the speaker and principal officials of the House have continued to outrage the public, bringing the House’s integrityinto question.
“Dogara therefore has a duty to explain to Nigerians the role he played in the alleged budget padding and abuse of office if the growing perception of corruption in the House is to be addressed.
“Nigerians would like him to explain how the funds meant for legislative functions to service guest houses were spent. Nigerians would also like him 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 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.”


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