Court grants leave for trial of lawmakers over budget padding

Court


A Federal High Court, Lagos has granted a request by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to seek an order to compel prosecution of some principal officers of the National Assembly over alleged padding and stealing of N481billion from the 2016 budget.
  
The court, presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris, also granted SERAP the permission to seek an order to compel the Federal Government to
“closely monitor and scrutinize the spending of N131 billion allocated for additional non-constituency projects expenditure.”Justice Idris granted the orders after hearing an argument on an exparte motion by SERAP counsel, Mrs. Joke Fekumo.
   
The decision of the court at the weekend has cleared the way for the group to advance its request for publication of the reports of investigation into the alleged budget padding and prosecution of the indicted lawmakers.
 
The court will on January 26, 2018 hear argument on why the reports of anti-corruption agencies on the budget padding should not be published and why the indicted officers should not be prosecuted.SERAP filed the suit last year following information received from multiple sources that the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had completed investigations into the
allegations.
 
The reports allegedly indicted some principal officers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, leading to freezing of the accounts of some of the affected lawmakers.The suit read in part: “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.
  
“Corruption in the budget process takes away and erodes much needed resources for public and development purposes. The level of secrecy surrounding the budget process in the National Assembly has invariably created a breeding place for alleged corruption. Secrecy in the National Assembly has clearly gone beyond the level permitted by law,and apparently served as the incubator for corruption, while depriving the Nigerian people of a much-needed opportunity to cleanse the National Assembly of persistent allegations of corruption,” the suit reads in part.

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