Group writes Buhari, urges trial of officers indicted for budget padding

President Muhammadu Buhari (C) presenting copies of the 2017 budget documents to the National Assembly on Wednesday, December 14, 2016.

Worried by the recent allegation of fresh budget paddling trailing the 2017 budget, a Lagos based rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) yesterday sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to commence the prosecution of principal officers of the National Assembly indicted in the 2016 budget padding.

The group urged the President to “urgently instruct security and anti-corruption agencies to forward reports of their completed investigations into allegations of padding and stealing of some N481 billion from the 2016 budget.”

It also asked President Buhari to urgently stop alleged ongoing attempts by some principal officers of the National Assembly to divert N40 billion of the N100 billion allocated by government as ‘zonal intervention’ in the 2017 budget.”

In the letter signed by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, SERAP requested the government to take the recommended steps within 14 days of receiving the letter, failing which it will institute appropriate legal and public-interest proceedings to compel the government to discharge its national and international anti-corruption obligations and commitments in this matter.

The organization added: “Unless the principal officers indicted in the alleged padding of the 2016 budget are promptly prosecuted and any stolen public funds recovered, your government will not be able to stop the alleged ongoing attempts to steal from the 2017 budget. Alleged corruption in the budget process will not just melt away or simply evaporate without addressing the fundamental issue of impunity of perpetrators.

“Addressing alleged corruption in the budget process by pursuing prosecution of indicted principal officers of the National Assembly will provide an important opportunity for your government to reignite the fight against corruption and fulfill a cardinal campaign promise, to show that your government works on behalf of the many, and not the few, as well as jumpstart economic activities and break the back of the current recession.”

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