The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the immediate prosecution of the principal officers of the National Assembly indicted in the padding of the 2016 budget to the tune of N481bn.
The court, in a judgment on Monday by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the anti-graft agencies which investigated the alleged budget padding to submit the report to him.
It ordered the President to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (Abubakar Malami (SAN)) and/or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to, without delay, commence prosecution of indicted lawmakers.”
Justice Idris gave the judgment in favour of a group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, which in 2017 filed a suit seeking an order of mandamus to compel the AGF to prosecute principal members of the National Assembly who allegedly padded the 2016 budget.
The court further ordered the President to “urgently halt alleged attempt by some principal officers of the National Assembly to steal N40bn of the N100bn allocated by his government as ‘zonal intervention’ in the 2017 budget.”
Justice Idris also ordered the President to “closely monitor and scrutinise the spending of N131bn (accrued from increased oil bench mark) allocated for additional non-constituency projects expenditure, to remove the possibility of corruption.”
Reacting to the judgment in a statement on Tuesday by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, SERAP said,
SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale said, “This judgment confirms the pervasive corruption in the budget process and the prevailing culture of impunity of our lawmakers as well as the failure of the authorities to uphold transparency and accountability in the entire budget process and implementation.
“The judgment is an important step towards reversing a culture of corruption in the budget process that has meant that many of our lawmakers see the budget more as a ‘meal ticket’ to look after themselves than a social contract to meet people’s needs and advance equity and development across the country.
“This is a crucial precedent that vindicates the right to a transparent and accountable budget process and affirms the budget as government’s most important economic policy document, which is central to the realization of all human rights including the rights to health, water, and education.
“We are now in the process of obtaining a certified copy of the judgment. SERAP will do everything within its power to secure the full and effective enforcement of this important judgment.”