Monday, August 1, 2016

Falana: DSS Lacks Power to Investigate Padding of National Budget

Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has said the Department of State Services (DSS) has no powers to investigate the padding of the national budget by members of the House of Representatives.

Falana said it was only the police and the anti-graft agencies that have the powers to invesitigate the allegation.

The lawyer who reacting to a report that the DSS had sealed off the office of the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, said by virtue of the provisions of the National Security Agencies Act, the powers of the DSS are strictly limited to the ‘preservation and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria.’



The senior advocate said since the padding of the national budget is a straight forward case of economic crime which is not concerned with the internal security of the nation,  the DSS should not play into the soiled hands of the criminal suspects in the House of Representatives as they may later turn round to challenge the legal validity of any criminal charge arising from  a faulty investigation report.

He said the DSS  should be called to order  as the nation cannot afford to bungle the investigation of  the highly placed politically exposed persons involved in the padding of the budget.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumin, has said the statement credited to former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the National Assembly is corrupt, was correct.

He added that the 2,000  insertions made into the 2016 budget by 10 chairmen of standing committees, were worth N284 billion.

Abdulmumin, in an interview with Channels Television monitored by THISDAY last night, said there was institutional corruption in the legislature.

“Obasanjo is not entirely wrong, but we keep living in denial, but the fact remains that there is institutional in the House,” he said.

Abdulmumin insisted that he had never been corrupt or involved in a corrupt practice in the legislature.

“I have never been involved in any action of corruption, I have never shared money in the House of Representatives,” Abdulmumin said and added that the insertions of N4.1 billion constituency projects credited to him were a creation of  Dogara and the fingered principal officers to malign him.

However, the Chairman of the House of Representatives on Basic Education, Hon. Zakari Mohammed, has refuted the allegations of inserting projects into the 2016 budget made by Abdulmumin.

Mohammed in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, said he was ready to appear before any anti-graft agency to prove his innocence.

Mohammed said at no time did he request any form of assistance from Abdulmumin to insert an item or project into the budget.

He challeneged Abdulmumin to produce any documentation that proves otherwise.

Abdulmumin, had alleged that Mohammed was one of the 11 chairmen of committees that formed part of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara’s cabal, who inserted about 2,000 projects into the 2016 budget.

He had also accused Dogara, Deputy Speaker, Yussuf Sulaimon Lasun; Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, of allocating N40billion to themselves out of the N100billion appropriated for the National Assembly.

He alleged several allegations against the principal officers, and in a series of tweets last weekend, he disclosed that he had formally presented his petition against them to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

But Mohammed said  Abdulmumin’s ‘rants’ are due to his removal as chairman of the Appropriation Commitee, and are designed to drag every credible member of the House along “because he does not want to bear his travails on the mismanagement of the 2016 budget alone.

“I have no file with EFCC or its allied agencies but the same cannot be said of the former Appropriation Committee chairman. Nigerians should therefore disregard his accusations because they are as a result of frustration of his removal,” he added.

Mohammed is the only committee chairman fingered by Abdulmumin who has issued a response. His statement read in full:

“His mud-racking at me was the second in a week.  Ordinarily, I would have ignored his face-saving tweets but the fact that he is deceptively carrying many Nigerians along makes it imperative to protect my hard-earned integrity and about 10 years of unblemished career as a political office holders. Prior to joining politics, I had worked as a civil servant for 14 years with outstanding records. I cannot allow a desperado, who is also a gold digger, to rubbish my impeccable integrity.”

“I have not spoken or had personal contact with Jibrin since November 2015 because I have always had reservations on his conduct and over rated personality, he held every member in contempt and arrogated usurped powers to himself. He was so overwhelmed by his ambition to drag me into his plot to the extent that he referred to me as the chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education because of his orchestrated  mission against me.

“I wish to place on record that throughout the period of consideration of the 2016 Appropriation Act, I did not meet or write Jibrin for assistance to include any item or project in my constituency. Not even when he sent Hon Muktar Betera, Chairman Defence  Committee to some of us to write via our letter heads requesting for assistance from him, instead,  I concentrated on my job as the Chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education. The proposals for Basic Education were easier in treating because the enabling Act of UBEC is explicit on how it should be funded. I want him to produce any of my write ups in my letter head to the public.

“For the avoidance  of doubt, I  want to state that my submission on the 2016 budget was a product of my committee’s relentless work, in conjunction with the Senate Committee on Basic Education. I challenge Jibrin to point out the specific areas that my committee fell short of its duties.

“In addition, this is my fifth year in the National Assembly, and  I have never heard of a budget being padded. What a sitting President brings to the National Assembly, according to Section 80(1) and (2) of the  1999 Constitution is an estimate which the Legislature is expected to consider and assist the Executive in reviewing appropriations for its plans and projects for the country for the fiscal year.

“Jibrin should look elsewhere for his prey. I was a public servant first for 14 years before taking political appointments  in 2002 as a Special Assistant, Commissioner for Sports and later Commissioner for Energy in Kwara State, including pioneering the first football academy in nigeria as chairman of the board and that of the state football team in my home state.my track records are clear and above board.

“On getting to the National Assembly  in 2011, I chaired the  sensitive media and public affairs committee and I was never found wanting in all aspects of my duties, financially or otherwise, I have gone this far to let the sadistic  Abdulmumin Jibrin know that as a student of government I have built a reputation on credible  slate without cutting corners. This assignment cannot be an exception because I have a family name and a lineage which is symbolised by diligence and not riches at all costs.

“As for Jibrin’s formal  report to the EFCC, I am more than ready to appear before any agency or anywhere to prove my innocence. I have no skeletons in my cupboard.”

However, a civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dogara Yakubu and other principal officers suspected to be involved in the alleged budget padding to step aside pending the outcome of investigation by the EFCC and other agencies.”

In a letter dated July 29, 2016, and signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group stated that following the confirmation it received from the EFCC that it had taken up and looking into its petition, it was necessary for the officers to step aside pending the out outcome of the investigation.

The group also urged the principal officers of the House suspected to be involved in the alleged padding to step aside from their positions to allow for the investigation by the EFCC and other agencies to go ahead unhindered.

It said it had also reviewed several documents circulating on the internet on the alleged budget padding and believed that these documents establish a prima-facie case of corruption, which deserves a thorough, transparent, independent and effective investigation by the EFCC and other agencies.

“In the circumstances, SERAP calls on you to demonstrate your often-expressed commitment to transparency, accountability, constitutionalism, democratic governance and the rule of law in Nigeria by now stepping aside from your position as Speaker and to ensure that other principal officers suspected to be involved in the budget padding do the same, pending the outcome of the investigation already by the EFCC.

“SERAP’s call is entirely consistent with the constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). As the supreme law of the land, all organs of government including the National Assembly are obliged to perform their functions in accordance with the constitution and other enabling laws.

“SERAP agrees with the Constitutional Court of Uganda when it asserted in Constitutional Petition No. 47 of 2011 Twinobusingye Severino vs Attorney General that, ‘In modern democracies, the term ‘stepping aside’ is now generally taken as part of the responsibility of the holder of a public office in discharging his or her duty of being accountable to the people. Thus a culture has developed in modern democracies, Uganda inclusive, whereby a public officer whose conduct in a public office is being questioned steps aside, on his or her own, to enable investigations to be carried out without his or her influence.”

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