By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr Dogara Yakubu requesting him and other principal officers implicated in the allegations of budget padding to stand aside.Â According to SERAP in a statement issued on Sunday by its Executive Director, Mr. Abayomi Mumuni, those implicated in the alleged budget padding should step aside pending the outcome of investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other agencies.
In the letter dated 29 July 2016 and signed Mumuni states the group stated that it is making the call following acknowledgement of the EFCC that it is acting on the petition.
The letter reads in part: â€œWe also urge you to ensure that other principal officers of the House suspected to be involved in the alleged padding step aside from their positions to allow for the investigation by the EFCC and other agencies to go ahead unhindered.
â€œSERAP has also reviewed several documents circulating on the internet on the alleged budget padding and we believe that these documents establish a prima-facie case of corruption, which deserves a thorough, transparent, independent and effective investigation by the EFCC and other agencies.â€
â€œIn the circumstances, SERAP calls on you to demonstrate your often-expressed commitment to transparency, accountability, constitutionalism, democratic governance and the rule of law in Nigeria by now stepping aside from your position as Speaker and to ensure that other principal officers suspected to be involved in the budget padding do the same, pending the outcome of the investigation already by the EFCC.â€
â€œSERAPâ€™s call is entirely consistent with the constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). As the supreme law of the land, all organs of government including the National Assembly are obliged to perform their functions in accordance with the constitution and other enabling laws.â€
â€œSERAP agrees with the Constitutional Court of Uganda when it asserted in Constitutional Petition No. 47 of 2011 Twinobusingye Severino vs Attorney General that, â€˜In modern democracies, the term â€˜stepping asideâ€™ is now generally taken as part of the responsibility of the holder of a public office in discharging his or her duty of being accountable to the people.
â€œThus a culture has developed in modern democracies, Uganda inclusive, whereby a Public officer whose conduct in a public office is being questioned steps aside, on his or her own, to enable investigations to be carried out without his or her influence.â€
â€œIndeed, SERAP believes that the necessity of being accountable to the people, by anyone holding a public office in Nigeria is clearly embedded in the constitution as provided under Chapter 2 titled: Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.â€