Senator Shehu Sani’s expression of support for the move by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the alleged padding of the 2016 budget has opened a new vista on the matter.
Sani, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts, said this in Abuja while speaking with newsmen.
It would be recalled that the EFCC commenced a formal investigation into the allegations.
The anti-graft body requested the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to provide a copy of the 2016 budget submitted to the National Assembly by the Presidency and the final copy returned by the National Assembly. Sani said that although the National Assembly has its internal mechanism of addressing such a matter, the EFCC could also discharge its duties.
“We are an independent organ of parliament, we have the right to investigate issues that happen within National Assembly but we are also not a crime enforcement agency.
“The National Assembly can do its work and the anti- corruption body can do its work; there is nothing wrong in that.
“The controversy in House of Representatives is getting Nigerians to be more conscious of what is happening in National Assembly.”
According to him, the Dogara-Abdulmumini “case is something, I believe, good for democracy in the sense that you must not use the National Assembly as a ground for impoverishing other people.”
“I am elected and you are elected and now you tell me that you are going to have more projects than I do, that is not going to work. In fact, the public coming to know what is happening in the National Assembly will help the new people like us who came in with fire-brand activism into the place.
“So, padding is a reality but if it is done within the agreement between the National Assembly and the executive arm; it falls within the line of legislative duty.
“But if it was done for the sake of seeking advantage by the person who did it, then that is a crime.”
It will be recalled that the controversy surrounding the padding of the 2016 Budget at the House of Representatives continued with the alleged sealing of the office of the House Committee on Appropriation by some people suspected to be operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
The controversy blew open after the immediate past Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee, Hon Abdulmumunu Jibrin, alleged that he rejected moves by principal officers of the House, led by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, to pad the 2016 Budget to the tune of N410 billion.
Jibrin has been replaced by Hon. Mustapha Dawaki. , Jibrin said he had reported Dogara to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged corrupt practices, even as the anti-corruption unit of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, petitioned the EFCC to ask the commission to probe the former House Appropriation Committee Chair for alleged fraud.
Meanwhile, reacting to the alleged sealing of the House Appropriation Committee’s office, Dawaki said it was safe and open and that all the documents in the office, including computer system, were intact. But the Clerk of the committee, Dr. Abel Ochobi, who tried to take journalists to inspect that the office was not shutdown, could not gain access to his office, prompting him to say that the security operatives seen in the place was on the order of the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sani Omolori.The Clerk had, in a letter to the CNA, titled, ‘Alleged shutdown, seizure, packing/relocating of Committee system and records/documents and harassment of staff’, had claimed that the report was false. Saying, yesterday, that he had reported Dogara to the EFCC, Jibrin made it clear that the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; the Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa, and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, were also joined in the petition to the EFCC, alongside eight other chairmen of committees. According to the document he made available to journalists, he said, “Yesterday we recorded huge success in our mission to get the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara and his cohorts to face prosecution. On the request of my lawyers, the security agencies have promptly protected the appropriation secretariat, my office and the House”. A coalition of media and civil society organisations also said, yesterday, that the nation’s democracy was under trial following what it described as the alleged plot to destabilise the leadership of the House of Representatives by external forces.
The CSO, in the statement, signed by Omoluabi Olabode Adeyemi, Executive Director of African Media Roundtable Initiative and convener, Coalition of Analysts and Media and Civil Society Organisations, and Opeyemi Duke, Executive Director, Centre for Legislative Advocacy, said it was the responsibility of the legislature to make appropriation, adding that there was nothing like padding in legislative terms. The NYCN, in its petition to EFCC, signed by its coordinator of the anti-corruption unit, Ifeanyi Okonkwo, accused Jibrin of being involved in multi-million naira contract and called on the anti-graft agency to investigate him. The group accused Jibrin of orchestrating the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
From the forgoing, it has become clear that the matter will not die easily no matter what the leadership of the House of Representatives do.w

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