NASS Officers Indicted In N481bn’ Budget Padding May Soon Be Prosecuted
Some officers of the National Assembly who have their hands in the padding of Nigeria’s 2016 budget may soon be prosecuted, but that depends on whether the Federal Government will accept to prosecute them.
A group Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has secured a bid “to seek an order of Mandamus to direct and compel the Federal Government to prosecute some principal officers of the National Assembly over allegations of padding and stealing of some 481 billion Niara from the 2016 budget”.
The group now believes that the court grant holds prospects that will make Nigerians who want to know the truth about alleged the padding of the 2016 budget, have some answers.
SERAP says Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos granted the bid on Friday.
That decision has now cleared the way for SERAP to advance its case against the Federal Government on the publication of the reports of investigation into the allegations of budget padding and prosecution of indicted officers of the National Assembly.
The decision also grants permission to SERAP to seek an order to compel the Federal Government to “closely monitor and scrutinize the spending of 131 billion Naira (accrued from increased oil bench mark) allocated for additional non-constituency projects expenditure, to remove the possibility of corruption.”
Justice Idris granted the order for leave following the hearing of an argument in court on exparte motion by SERAP counsel Mrs Joke Fekumo. The motion on notice is set for Friday 26 January 2018, for the hearing of argument on why the reports by anticorruption agencies on the investigation into the alleged budget padding should not be published, and why indicted officers should not be prosecuted.
The suit number FHC/L/CS/1821/2017 filed last year followed “credible information received by SERAP from multiple sources that the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have completed investigations into the 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 allegedly illicit funds have been frozen, and the case files for the prosecution of those indicted were ready.”
The suit read: “Unless the principal officers indicted in the alleged padding of the 2016 budget are prosecuted and any stolen public funds recovered, the Federal Government will not be able to stop padding of future budgets.
“Alleged corruption in the budget process will not just melt away or simply evaporate without addressing the fundamental issue of impunity of perpetrators.”
“Addressing alleged corruption in the budget process by pursuing prosecution of indicted principal officers of the National Assembly will provide an important opportunity for the Federal Government to reignite the fight against corruption and fulfil a cardinal campaign promise, to show that the Federal Government works on behalf of the many, and not the few, as well as jumpstart economic activities and break the back of the recession”.
The group further highlighted that the allegations of crime of budget padding against the indicted principal officers of the National Assembly is a gross deprivation of the good people of Nigeria’s legitimate wealth and natural resources.