The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has called for a detailed probe into the budget padding allegations being publicly traded by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin.
The call was made in statement issued by Mr. Debo Adeniran, CACOL’s Executive Chairman. According to Adeniran, the allegations levelled against the Speaker and three other principal officers of the House deserve to be thoroughly investigated because they are grave and are matters of national interest, adding that those found culpable should be prosecuted.
“The allegations are too grievous and deserve thorough investigations. Anyone found to have violated laid down rules, procedures and the Constitution should be prosecuted,” he submitted.
The CACOL Chairman further explained that it is imperative to investigate the allegations, given that they were the sparked by something as important as the national budget.
He added that the leadership of the House seems convinced that the matter should be investigated, saying the next logical step is the commencement of investigation and prosecution-if culpability is established.
The CACOL Chairman, however, suggested that investigation into the matter should not be left to the House. Rather, he said, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other relevant anti-graft agencies should be involved.
“The conviction of the House of Representatives has reportedly been demonstrated through the decision of the leadership under scrutiny to invite the ICPC that is saddled with the task of dealing with issues of official corruption and related offences.
“And if appropriate and necessary, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other relevant anti-graft agencies should look into the matter, including allegations that Jibrin abused his office between 2011 and 2015 when he was the Chairman, Committee on Finance,” Adeniran stated.
The CACOL boss added that the group’s independent findings and media reports indicate that a group of legislators, which calls itself Transparency Group and has collected about 113 signatures from lawmakers across the six geo-political zones and party lines, is already calling for an external investigation into the matter.
“It is therefore clear from the division in the House of Representatives that the matter cannot be reduced to one which the House can handle internally.
“We have always called for circumspection, thorough investigations, diligent prosecutions and regard for the rule of law when situations like this arise and that is where we stand on this matter too.” Adeniran explained that “budget padding” became a popular phrase in the country’s lexicon when President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2016 Budget to the National Assembly. He said a clearer understanding of the phrase can be possible only when those involved explain to Nigerians.
“The episode itself has also thrown up a major question, which would raise other questions that probably only the investigations of the case will provide answers for and the main question is: What really does ‘budget padding’ mean? Is ‘budget padding’ the bloating of the budget in terms of inflating the value of projects? Is ‘budget padding’ the addition, duplication, replication or repetition of projects to the budget into, within or outside the Appropriation Bill submitted by the Executive to the House?” Adeniran asked.
The CACOL Chairman advised Nigerians to consider the saga as a proof that those elected as representatives of the people are not doing what is expected of them.
To prevent a recurrence of this sad development, called for a review of the laws governing the funding of the National Assembly in a way that better empowers the Accountant General of the Federation and the Auditor-General of the Federation to monitor financial flow to the lawmakers.
This, he argued, will reduce the ease of access to money from public.
“The Accountant-General and Auditor-General should begin to play supervisory roles in how the National Assembly is funded.
“Even if they pad the budget, they won’t be able to escape the prying eyes of the Accountant-General and the Auditor-General of the Federation.” He concluded.