The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and three other principal officers of the House to immediately step aside pending the investigation into the allegations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
SERAP, which had submitted a petition to the EFCC, alleging that the leadership of the House of Representatives padded the 2016 budget to the tune of N481bn, also said the anti-graft agency had confirmed that it was already looking into the matter.
The group, in an open letter sent to the speaker, requested him and other principal officers “suspected to be involved in the alleged budget padding to step aside pending the outcome of investigation by the EFCC and other agencies.”
The letter dated July 29, 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni read in part: “We 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.
“SERAP 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.
“In 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.
“SERAP’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.
“SERAP agrees with the Constitutional Court of Uganda when it asserted in Constitutional Petition No. 47 of 2011 Twinobusingye Severino vs Attorney General that, ‘In modern democracies, the term ‘stepping aside’ 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. Thus 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.’
“Indeed, 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.
“Specifically, Chapter 2 provides among others that all public offices shall be held in trust for the Nigerian people; that all persons placed in positions of leadership and responsibility shall in their work be answerable to the people; and that all lawful measures shall be taken to expose, combat and eradicate corruption and abuse or misuse of power by those holding political and other public offices.
“SERAP believes that the allegations of budget padding by the leadership of the House of Representatives have undermined the status of the National Assembly which is supposed to be the fountain of constitutionalism. The Speaker, as the head of the House, has a big role to play in guiding parliamentarians to embrace transparency by sending a powerful message that allegations of corruption will not be condoned, tolerated or covered up. “SERAP believes that the House of Representatives cannot function effectively nor enjoy public trust and confidence as long as the allegations of budget padding continue to trail its leadership.
“By stepping aside and ensuring that others suspected to be involved in the budget padding also step aside until such a time as the investigations by the EFCC and other agencies are completed, you will be promoting acts that would enhance the integrity and respect for the National Assembly, as well as strict observance of the constitution both in letter and spirit.”
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