SERAP seeks EFCC, ICPC’s probe into House budget padding scandal 

By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos

 The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara to invite the various anti-graft agencies to probe the allegation of budget padding raised by a former House Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumini Jubrin. Jubrin had alleged that Dogara and some principal officers mounted pressure on him to pad the 2016 budget with additional N40b. 

Reacting to the development, SERAP in a statement on Sunday signed by its Executive Director, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni wrote that the speaker should “Urgently refer to the (the case to the) Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for an effective and independent investigation the allegations that the leadership of the House attempted to pad this year’s budget to the tune of N40 billion and that the member who blew the whistle was victimized for opposing immunity for principal officers.” 

Mumuni added that, “Given the seriousness and gravity of the allegations against the leadership of the House, any investigation by the House would not be enough, as this would not meet the threshold of an effective, transparent and independent investigation. Nigerians won’t have confidence in the House investigating itself in this case.” 

The statement reads in part: “Referring the allegations to both the EFCC and the ICPC for a joint investigation would show that the House leadership is willing and able to enhance the transparency and accountability of its system and that of the National Assembly as a whole.” 

“The Speaker must now move swiftly to refer the allegations to the EFCC and the ICPC to allow for a swift, transparent, effective and independent investigation in order to contain the damage that is already done, but also not to create the impression of a cover up. There must be full accountability for any leader or member of the House found to be responsible for corruption and abuse of office.” 

“These allegations also raise numerous questions about the need for greater level of transparency and accountability in the National Assembly, such as telling Nigerians the salaries and allowances of Senators and members of the House; public auditing of spending by the National Assembly, and why several concluded reports on allegations of corruption that have been investigated by the National Assembly remain shrouded in secrecy and skewed to favour suspected corrupt officers.” 

“SERAP also urges the leadership of the House to publicly commit that the House will not promote constitutional amendments on immunity for its principal officers. No matter how it’s framed, no public interest is served by the National Assembly seeking to grant its principal officers immunity that wasn’t contemplated by the framers of the 1999 Constitution.” 

“It’s absolutely important that members of the National Assembly–the Senate and House of Representatives–conduct themselves at all times in the knowledge that their role is a public one; appearances of propriety can be as important as actual conflicts of interest in establishing what is acceptable behaviour.” 

“SERAP also urges Mr Dogara to use the opportunity of addressing the allegations raised against the leadership of the House to propose a bill on members’ integrity, which we strongly believe would help to restore public confidence in the National Assembly; provide a check against corruption; and protect the leadership of the House and Senate from claims and criticisms of self- interest.”

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