A rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately order relevant anti-graft and security agencies to prosecute principal officers of the National Assembly that were indicted over the padding of the 2016 budget .
The organisation said the officers were alleged to have padded the 2016 budget to the tune of N481 billion.
In a statement on Thursday by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, the organisation said prosecuting the perpetrators will serve as deterrent and “avoid padding in the 2017 budget.”
The letter read in part: “Publishing the report of the investigation of the alleged padding of the 2016 budget, and prosecuting suspected perpetrators are absolutely important to avoid another padding in the 2017 budget, which your government can ill afford.
“Corruption in the budget process takes away and erodes much needed resources for public and developmental purposes. SERAP is seriously concerned about the level of secrecy surrounding the budget process in the National Assembly, which 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.
“SERAP has received very credible information from multiple sources that the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have now completed investigations 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. Also, the accounts of some of the principal officers containing allegedly illicit funds have been frozen, and that the case files for the prosecution of those indicted are ready.”
“SERAP has also received credible information from whistle-blowers about ongoing attempt by some principal officers of the National Assembly to allegedly steal N40 billion of the N100 billion allocated by your government as ‘zonal intervention’ (also known as constituency projects) in the 2017 budget.
“SERAP is also aware of the alleged risk of corruption involving the $2.5 budget oil bench mark increment which comes up to about N131 billion. The N131 billion will be appropriated to either reduce deficit or increase expenditure or both but unless the spending of the funds is closely monitored and scrutinised, the funds may be diverted, mismanaged or stolen.
“SERAP is also concerned that deception in the budget process will continue unless Nigerians are granted access to inspect the budget process and other activities by the National Assembly. SERAP strongly believes that Nigerians have the right to know what their lawmakers are doing so that they are able to appraise their work and hold them to account.”