The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has accused the National Assembly of "apparently engaging in crimes against humanity and Nigerians by unilaterally cutting funding for critical projects such as health, water, education, housing and security, and replacing such projects with their own personal projects totalling 6,403 projects and amounting to N578 billion."
SERAP's Deputy Director, Mr. Timothy Adewale alleged in a statement yesterday that the lawmakers cut funding for over 4,000 critical projects amounting to N347 billion.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami to open discussions with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to establish whether substantial grounds and the requisite elements exist to warrant the intervention of the prosecutor in this case.
Adewale noted that under the Rome Statute, the prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the court if a state party, such as Nigeria, refers a situation to the court.
According to him, indicting individual lawmakers suspected to be most responsible for the reduction of funding for critical projects would provide a much-needed measure of accountability for leaders who have traditionally acted with impunity.
"Cutting funding for essential public services such as health, education and security constitutes a serious human rights violation and potentially rises to the level of crimes against humanity against the Nigerian people," he said.
"The deliberate and systematic acts of alleged budget padding and cutting of funding by the lawmakers, coupled with the widespread negative consequences of such acts for millions of Nigerians point to not only allegations of corruption but also crimes against humanity, that is, deliberately withholding access of Nigerians to essential and life-saving public services, which is triable at the International Criminal Court," Adewale explained.
He also stated that apart from pursuing a possible crime against humanity prosecution before the ICC, President Buhari should also enforce the judgment delivered last month by Justice Mohammed Idris in suit no: FHC/L/CS/1821/2017 ordering the president to ask 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, and to ensure prosecution of suspects.
According to Adewale, it is the failure to decisively address allegations of padding of the 2016 budget that has allowed the practice to continue with almost absolute impunity.
"Crimes against humanity invoke criminal responsibility. Although the authorities bear the responsibility for violations of the rights to health, water, education and security, it is possible to hold individuals responsible for massive and grave violations of these human rights through the operation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to which Nigeria is a state party. Nigeria deposited its instrument of ratification on September 27, 2001," he added.
"Crimes against humanity in article 7 of the Rome Statute are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack. Crimes against humanity are also committed as "other inhumane acts of similar character intentionally causing great suffering, as described in article 7(1) (k) of the Rome Statute," Adewale said.