Femi-Falana
  •  Says APC government already covering up corruption cases

Gboyega Akinsanmi

A human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, on Sunday said the decision of the National Assembly to unilaterally insert constituency projects worth N100 billion in the 2016 budget was “a clear case of conspiracy, fraud, forgery and corruption.”

Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), lamented that the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari had started covering up cases of corruption like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government.

He expressed the view in a statement he issued, citing different sections of the 1999 Constitution and Fiscal Responsibility Act to establish that the padding of 2016 budget was illegal and unconstitutional.

The Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had defended the decision of the lower chamber to unilaterally insert 2,000 items into the 2016 budget after former Chairman of Appropriation Committee, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibril accused the principal officers of padding the budget.

Jibril alleged that the speaker had allocated projects worth N4 billion to his constituency, leaving 359 other members of the lower chambers “to share the remaining N36 billion out of N40 billion unilaterally inserted in the budget.

But in a statement he personally signed, Falana alleged that about 20 legislators in both chambers of the national assembly altered the budget by “inserting constituency projects worth N100 billion in the 2016 budget. Both the Senate and the House allocated to themselves N60 billion and N40 billion respectively.”

The senior advocate noted that if “it is established that the alterations were effected after the passing of the budget by both houses the issue at hand goes beyond padding. A clear case of conspiracy, fraud, forgery and corruption can be established against the suspects.”

He explained that padding “takes place when legislators resolve to rewrite the budget by introducing new items outside the estimates prepared and presented to them by the President.

“The controversy over the padding of budget was laid to rest with the enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, which has imposed a duty on the finance minister to source input from certain institutions, including the national assembly, during the course of preparing the budget.

“That is when negotiations and horse trading with the executive by the legislators is allowed. But neither the Constitution nor the Fiscal Responsibility Act has empowered the National Assembly members to rewrite the national budget by including constituency projects whose costs are arbitrarily fixed by the legislators.”

Further details later