A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered President Muhammadu Buhari to probe allegations of padding and stealing of about N481 billion from the 2016 budget by some principal officers of the National Assembly
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.”
Article 22 of the African Charter provides that, “All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom,” and that “States shall have the duty, individually or collectively, to ensure the exercise of the right to development.”
Justice Idris also granted an order directing the President to “urgently halt alleged attempt by some principal officers of the National Assembly to steal N40 billion of the N100 billion allocated by his government as ‘zonal intervention’ in the 2017 budget.”
The court also ordered the President “to closely monitor and scrutinize the spending of N131 billion (accrued from increased oil bench mark) allocated for additional non-constituency projects expenditure, to remove the possibility of corruption.”
It was the contention of the court that “SERAP, being a human rights non-governmental organisation has sufficient interest in the way and manner public funds are being utilized in this country.”