APC to start covering up corruption cases like PDP? – Falana

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, SAN, has lamented that the All Progressives Congress, APC-led federal government has started covering up cases of corruption like the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, government it ousted from power.

He said that the decision of the National Assembly to unilaterally insert constituency projects worth about N100bn in the 2016 budget was “a clear case of conspiracy, fraud, forgery and corruption”, citing different sections of the 1999 Constitution and Fiscal Responsibility Act to buttress his point that the padding of the 2016 budget was illegal and unconstitutional.

Disclosing this in a statement personally signed by him, Falana insisted that
20 legislators in the Senate and House of Reps altered the budget by “inserting constituency projects worth N100bn in the 2016 budget. Both the Senate and the House allocated to themselves N60bn and N40bn respectively.”

The respected lawyer noted that if “it is established that the alterations were effected after the passing of the budget by both houses the issue at hand goes beyond padding. A clear case of conspiracy, fraud, forgery and corruption can be established against the suspects.”

Padding “takes place when legislators resolve to rewrite the budget by introducing new items outside the estimates prepared and presented to them by the president.

“The controversy over the padding of budget was laid to rest with the enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 which has imposed a duty on the finance minister to source input from certain institutions including the national assembly during the course of preparing the budget.

“That is when negotiations and horse trading with the executive by the legislators is allowed. But neither the Constitution nor the Fiscal Responsibility Act has empowered the National Assembly members to rewrite the national budget by including constituency projects whose costs are arbitrarily fixed by the legislators.”

Other bills can emanate from either of any quarters, money bills shall emanate from the President.

“So a money bill is a special bill which cannot be subjected to additions by the national assembly because it has no power to prepare it. Padding is an unconstitutional infraction when the estimates are increased on the floor of the House. The infraction becomes criminal when the Appropriation Bill is altered by a few legislators after it had been passed by both houses of the national assembly.”

He, therefore, said the speaker claimed that the padding of the 2016 was not a criminal offence, noting that Dogara’s confidence “is likely to have been anchored on the statement credited to the presidency that the budget was not padded in any material particular.

“Before then, the APC had decided to follow the discredited path of the PDP by treating the serious allegation of monumental corruption as a family affair of the ruling party.”

But unlike the PDP, Falana noted that the APC government failed “to act timeously. In other words, a cover up is no longer possible at this stage as the cat has been let out of the bag. For now, Dogara has no choice, but to defend the criminal allegations.

“Contrary to Dogara’s misleading contention, the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act has not conferred immunity on him with respect to allegations of criminal offences."