*Demand probe of constituency projects
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
A civil society group on the platform of ‘Say No Campaign Nigeria’ has said that both the executive and the National Assembly leadership should be held responsible for any malfeasance discovered in the 2016 national budget.
Worried by the controversy trailing the alleged padding of the budget, the group said the leadership of the National Assembly should step aside for an independent panel of inquiry to be constituted to investigate all allocations for constituency projects between 2004 and 2016.
It described the term constituency project as an illegal contraption that has no basis in the country’s constitution.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, conveners of the group, Ezenwa Nwagwu and Jaye Gaskia, said if Nigeria is to meet the basic needs of citizens and arrest the worsening economic crisis, all those behind the budget padding scandal must be unmasked and all loopholes for further loss funds be blocked.
The group said: “The budget padding allegation is an indictment of the entire leadership of the National Assembly, and of the budgetary process in its entirety.
“The 2016 budget could not have been padded successfully by only one official, or only one chamber, or only the National Assembly. The successful padding of the budget requires the collaboration of both the Legislature and the Executive.”
While demanding the resignation of the leadership of the National Assembly for their complicity in the budget padding scandal, the group said the current scandal in the National Assembly has presented an opportunity to undertake a holistic review of entire budgetary process in the country.
It noted that without a budgetary process based on a needs assessment, and contributing to realising a development strategy, every budget is in reality a padded budget, adding that “all budgets since 1999 have been padded budgets because they are based on ‘guesstimates’ and assumptions that are not backed with empirical data.
“We insist that the fundamental flaw creating the enabling environment for budget padding and the fiscal recklessness and grand corruption that comes along with it is the complete absence of a framework and process for strategic national development planning.”