Budget padding: Court orders probe of indicted lawmakers

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate allegations of padding and stealing of about N481 billion from the 2016 budget by some lawmakers.

Justice Mohammed Idris who gave the order also instructed the President to direct Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), and/or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to immediately commence the prosecution of indicted lawmakers.

Justice Idris issued the order in a judgment delivered on Monday in a mandamus suit filed by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

The defendants in the suit are the President and Malami.

The suit was filed last year after the organisation  received “credible information from multiple sources that the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have completed investigation 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.

The organisation also claimed to have found out that the accounts of some of the principal officers containing allegedly illicit funds were frozen, and that the case files for the prosecution of those indicted were ready.

The suit claims that “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 fulfill a cardinal campaign promise, to show that the Federal Government works on behalf of the many, and not the few, as well as jump start economic activities and break the back of the recession.”

Justice Idris, ordered the President to “direct the publication of the report of investigations by security and anti-corruption bodies into the alleged padding of the 2016budget.

He held that President Buhari in the exercise of his executive powers; has a duty to ensure compliance with the provisions of Article 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and that the President is “expected to use his executive powers for the public good of Nigeria.”

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