John Ameh and Ade Adesomoju

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is investigating no fewer than 65 persons, comprising mainly members of the National Assembly, for alleged padding of the 2016 budget.

It was learnt that some directors and other public officers in the various Ministries, Department and Agencies of the Federal Government were among the 65 suspects.

The EFCC had requested from the Code of Conduct Bureau the asset declaration forms submitted by the 65 persons to the bureau. The Chairman of the CCB, Mr. Sam Saba, confirmed to one of our correspondents on Saturday that most of the requested forms had been sent to the EFCC.

“Most, if not all, have already been sent,” he said.

He said those, whose forms had not been sent, probably did not complete and submit their assets declaration forms.

“It means some of them did not fill the forms, because it will not show on the data bank,” Saba said.

He declined to give further information when asked to give the breakdown of the categories of legislators, whose forms were requested.

“Some of them are legislators; some of them are civil servants,” the CCB boss said.

He explained that the EFCC did not ask for the forms submitted by the affected persons for any specific set of years.

Speaking with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, the CCB chairman added, “The forms did not have to be for specific years. They said they needed the forms for the officers whom they sent their names and there were 65 of them.

“The total number, including public officers and some legislators, was 65 in all.”

SUNDAY PUNCH had initially gathered that the anti-graft agency had requested the asset declaration forms of the principal officers of the House of Representatives from 2011 to date in an attempt to establish a connection between the worth of the legislators between 2011 and 2016.

The probe of the federal lawmakers was necessitated by the petitions of the sacked Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who had alleged that the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara; his deputy, Yussuff Lasun; Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, padded the 2016 budget to the tune of N40bn.

Efforts by one of our correspondents to reach Dogara and the other principal officers of the House, who were accused by Jibrin of padding the budget, failed on Saturday.

Calls to their mobiles phones were not returned while text messages sent to them were not responded to as of the time of filing this report.

The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, however, told SUNDAY PUNCHthat the lawmakers had nothing to worry about.

He added that the House would not stop any agency of government from performing its constitutional duties.

Namdas stated, “The CCB is constitutionally recognised and it is doing its work. Members too are aware of this and they complied with every provision of the law when they filled their asset (declaration) forms.

“So, they have nothing to worry about, neither should they have sleepless nights.

“But it must be clarified that the CCB cannot investigate budget padding; it can talk about the assets of members.

“If the EFCC says it is investigating budget padding, whatever that means, the House will not interfere; it should know its job and I believe it is doing its work.”

Jibrin had also alleged that 10 principal officers of the House had “embezzled” over N10bn allocated as “running costs” between 2003 and this year.

The officers accused by the Kano lawmaker are Dogara, Lasun, House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila; Ado-Doguwa, Ogor, Deputy Leader, Buba Jibril; Deputy Whip, Pally Iriase; Deputy Minority Leader, Chukwuka Onyeama; Minority Whip, Yakubu Barde; and Deputy Minority Whip, Binta Bello-Maigeri.

Jibrin had petitioned the EFCC, the police and the Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption over the budget padding scam.

On August 31, 2016, following his petition, Jibrin met with the members of the Sagay-led PACAC.

While briefing journalists on the activities of PACAC in the last one year, the Executive Secretary of the committee, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, confirmed that Jibrin’s petition had been sent to the relevant anti-corruption agency for investigation.

The embattled Jibrin, after making several allegations of wrongdoing against the leadership of the House and calling on anti-graft agencies as well as the police to probe the Reps’ leaders, fled Nigeria to the United Kingdom a few weeks ago, citing alleged threats to his life.

Copyright PUNCH.