30 May 2018

Nigeria: Budget Padding - Court Orders Buhari to Prosecute Indicted Lawmakers

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has, in a landmark judgement, ordered President Muhammadu Buhari to "urgently instruct security and anti-corruption agencies to forward to him reports of their investigations into allegations of padding and stealing of some N481 billion from the 2016 budget by some principal officers of the National Assembly."

The court also ordered President Buhari to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to commence prosecution of indicted lawmakers without delay.

The judgement was delivered, Monday, by Justice Mohammed Idris, following a mandamus suit no: FHC/L/CS/1821/2017 brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP.

The court also ordered President Buhari to "direct the publication of the report of investigations by security and anti-corruption bodies into the alleged padding of the 2016 budget."

In the suit brought against the President and Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Justice Idris further 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.

It held further that the President was expected to use his executive powers for the public good of Nigeria.

The court also granted an order directing Buhari 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."

Buhari was also ordered "to closely monitor and scrutinise the spending of N131 billion (accrued from increased oil bench mark) allocated for additional non-constituency projects expenditure, to remove the possibility of corruption."

The court held that "SERAP, being a human rights non-governmental organisation, has sufficient interest in the way and manner public funds are being utilised in this country."

Reacting to the judgement, SERAP's Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said: "This judgement confirms the pervasive corruption in the budget process and the prevailing culture of impunity of our lawmakers as well as the failure of the authorities to uphold transparency and accountability in the entire budget process and implementation.

"The judgement is an important step towards reversing a culture of corruption in the budget process that has meant that many of our lawmakers see the budget more as a 'meal ticket' to look after themselves than a social contract to meet people's needs and advance equity and development across the country.

"This is a crucial precedent that vindicates the right to a transparent and accountable budget process and affirms the budget as government's most important economic policy document, which is central to the realisation of all human rights, including the rights to health, water, and education.

"We are now in the process of obtaining a certified copy of the judgement. SERAP will do everything within its power to secure the full and effective enforcement of this important judgment."

Recall that SERAP last year, filed the suit after the organisation said it received "credible information from multiple sources that the Department of State Services, DSS, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have 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, and that 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 were ready."

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