In this interview with TOLUWANI ENIOLA, the Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Adetokunbo Mumuni, demands the resignation of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in order to save the image of the National Assembly
What’s your reaction to the claim by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, that padding is not corruption?
If padding is not corruption, I wonder what else would qualify as corruption. It is obviously corruption. If we take the condition of those who have made the submission that the budget was padded, if we got their story correctly, it means after they had agreed at the plenary on the 2016 budget, if the speaker and some groups , thereafter, decided to make insertions into the budget, that is definitely criminal. It is a breach of public trust and an abuse of public office and it can be aptly described as corruption. I say categorically that budget padding is corruption.
Many expect that in a saner clime, the Speaker should have resigned. Do you subscribe to this view?
That is what should have happened in a sane environment. Remember that because of the mere mention of the name of the Prime Minister of Iceland in the Panama papers allegation, he resigned the following day. It has also happened here before. Mrs. Adenike Grange, a former Minister of Education, was accused of corruption-related allegation and she resigned to clear her name. She was cleared of the allegation eventually that she did nothing wrong. We don’t normally see cases like that in Nigeria. Once matters of probity and integrity are attached to one’s name in a negative way, the best thing to do is to resign from such a position to pave the way for thorough and unhindered investigations. That is even good for the person’s image rather than saying that one has nothing to fear. That shows that the accused is shameless.
Are you satisfied with the response of the Presidency to the allegations?
What should the Presidency do? It is not the business of the President. It is the business of the anti-corruption agencies to come and begin a probe. They don’t need an order from the President. When they delay too long, and they failed to act, that is when people would start making the insinuation that it was the President that was behind that. This is what they were legally established to do. They should investigate any allegation of crime. The padding is already in the public domain, so they don’t need the permission of the President. So, the President should not be dragged into it at all. Buhari is not the judiciary and he has nothing to do in this matter. He should not be the one directing the EFCC or ICPC to look into the matter. That is not his business.
What is your reaction to the failure of Dogara to honour the police’s invitation on the allegation?
It means the police are not doing their work properly. Dogara has no immunity from investigation and prosecution. Even the President does not have immunity from being investigated. If he failed to appear, let them do to him what is always done to other Nigerians. He is not above the law. Let him be arrested. There is no legal basis for him to have refused the invitation. So, they should go and arrest him to come and answer questions.
A lawmaker said the duty of the House is to pad budget, is there a constitutional defence for the padding allegation?
The member of the House who said that padding was not corruption must have misconstrued who should prepare the budget and who should approve it. The budget is supposed to be prepared by the executive arm of government. If you look at what the constitution says, padding is a negative idea in the budgeting process. What you can only do as a legislator is to move subhead; for instance, if the executive arm proposed N50bn for education, and proposed N100bn for sports, the legislative arm could say that education is more important than sports. It could then budget N50bn for sports and make that of education N100bn. You cannot increase any subhead as a legislator and that is what they were accused of doing in this case. The power of appropriation belongs to the legislature. By increasing or inserting its own figure, the legislature has become part of those who prepared the budget and worked against the constitution. If by padding, they added to what they agreed to at the plenary, that is criminal and illegal.
What do you think should be the appropriate punishment for the principal actors in the budget padding crisis?
It is not yet a question of punishment. Let them step down from their positions first. Let there be a thorough investigation and whoever is found to have committed the crime should be prosecuted according to the law. It is the court of law that will eventually decide whether somebody is guilty of the crime or not. Only the court can apportion punishments.
Who do you think should be blamed in the whole saga, Dogara, APC or Jibrin?
I don’t believe Jibrin’s version of the budget padding story. He is not an altruistic whistleblower. Assuming he is still the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, we won’t be hearing this. That is why I found his motive suspect. But as to the allegations and counter allegations, that is why we need an external body that is already established by law to look into it. The padding is no longer a family or APC affair. An attempt to commit an offence is different from the offence committed. Both carry penalties under the law.
What do you think Nigerians and anti-corruption groups should do to ensure that justice is done in the crisis?
Issues like this should not be left for anti-corruption groups. If Nigerians are serious, this is a matter that affects them. They should act. By now, we should be hearing protests and words like ‘Occupy House of Representatives.’ Nigerians should be mobilised. They should intervene in this matter. Nigerians are the ones who would suffer the effects of the padding. So, Nigerians should move out en masse to protest and insist that they would not take this until the anti-corruption agencies take it up and ensure that justice is done and seen to have been done. They can move en masse to the EFCC and insist the actors must be investigated.