Padding is corruption, SERAP tells Dogara

The argument by the embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, that "budget padding" is not a known crime under any Nigerian law, has been countered by rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP.
Dogara, alongside three other principal officers of the House, has been accused by the removed Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation,
Abdulmumin Jibrin, of 'padding' the 2016 budget.
Dogara is quoted to have said: "Budget padding is not an offence. What is padding? I studied Law and I have been in the legislature and all this period I have never heard of the word padding being an offence under any law...Why should I be worried? As far as I am concerned, I am not worried over anything."
Countering the Speakers view however, SERAP, argued that budget padding was tantamount to corruption, which was against Nigerian laws.
The group said budget padding was in the class of offences such as abuse of office, embezzlement, diversion and misappropriation of public funds, conspiracy to act corruptly and illicit enrichment, which, it said were a violation of the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.
SERAP also argued that budget padding was actually criminalized by provisions of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act and the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act.
In a statement released on Sunday by SERAP's Executive Director, Adetokunbi Mumuni, the group said, "The allegations against Mr. Dogara and other principal officials of the House of Representatives also suggest a subversion of the budget process, which, in itself, is a crime and also a fundamental breach of constitutional provisions and an affront on internationally recognised human rights.
"A prima facie case of corruption is established when elected officials are allegedly influenced to act contrary to their obligations of office by the prospect of financial gain to themselves.
"Budget padding also amounts to corruption as the action is against the public interest. Any appearance of corruption in the budget process can result in a cynical public losing interest in political participation altogether. And democracy can't work unless Nigerians have faith in those who govern them."
SERAP has written petitions to anti-graft agencies in the country, calling for the probe of Dogara and others; and also demanded their resignation from office pending the outcome of the probe.

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