Budget padding: Refer Ningi allegations to EFCC, ICPC, SERAP tells Akpabio

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio to “urgently refer the allegations by Senator Abdul Ningi that lawmakers padded the 2024 budget by irregularly inserting projects worth N3.7 trillion to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for investigation and prosecution.”

SERAP also demanded immediately reinstate whistleblower Ningi, who was recently suspended from the Senate over his allegations that the lawmakers padded the 2024 budget by irregularly inserting projects worth N3.7 trillion.”

SERAP in a letter dated March 16, 2024 by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, addressed to the Senate President, also called on him “to make a public commitment to discontinue the patently unlawful constituency projects in the next budget cycle.”

According to SERAP, “Referring these allegations to appropriate anticorruption agencies would be consistent with the lawmakers’ oath of office and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended].

“What Senator Ningi has done is a positive act of good citizenship. No whistleblower should ever be penalised simply for making a public interest disclosure.

“Without inside information, corruption is hard to detect, prevent and combat. Rather than suspending Senator Ningi, the Senate ought to have used his allegations as a trigger for addressing the lingering problem of budget padding and corruption in the implementation of constituency projects.

“Referring the allegations to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, would improve public trust in the ability of the leadership of the Senate to ensure probity and accountability in the budget process.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.

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“If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel you and the Senate to comply with our requests in the public interest.

“By exercising strong and effective leadership in this matter, the National Assembly can show Nigerians that the legislative body is a proper and accountable watchdog that represents and protects the public interest, and is able to hold itself to account in the management of public resources.

“Encouraging whistleblowers to speak up improves public services and strengthens public accountability.

“Promptly referring the allegations to ICPC and EFCC for investigations and prosecution would serve the public interest.

“Investigating and prosecuting the allegations of budget padding and corruption would end the impunity of perpetrators.

“It would improve transparency and accountability in the National Assembly, and build trust in democratic institutions with the ultimate aim of strengthening the rule of law.”

“SERAP is concerned about the opacity and lack of accountability in the spending of public funds on constituency projects since the return of democracy in 1999,” the latter added.

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