•N’Assembly does not engage in padding, Senate insists
John Alechenu, John Ameh, Olalekan Adetayo, and Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Presidency on Friday said the court judgment on budget padding aligned with the present administration’s posture against corruption.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had on Monday directed the President to order the security and anti-corruption agencies to forward to him (Buhari) reports of their investigations into allegations of padding and stealing of some N481bn from the 2016 budget by some principal officers of the National Assembly.
It also ordered Buhari to prosecute the indicted lawmakers.
In its reaction, the Presidency said that even before the judgment, some individuals were already having their days in court.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in an interview with our correspondent.
Shehu said some lawmakers were already being prosecuted in connection with constituency projects.
He said, “The court judgment is in order. We have no problem with it.
“The court has the constitutional responsibility to remind the government of its responsibilities.
“There are many cases in court as we speak especially with constituency projects. There are parliamentarians being prosecuted.
“When the administration came on board, we made it clear that we will block waste and fight corruption.
“This administration will fight criminality. The court order is in line with our position.”
The House of Representatives on Friday said its leadership had not been indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
The Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, stated this in an interview withSaturday PUNCH.
Although Ado-Doguwa commended the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project for securing the judgment, he described it as “a nulity” so long as there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the leadership of the House.
Ado-Doguwa argued that till date, no member of the leadership had been indicted by any of the anti-graft agencies.
He spoke further, “For the avoidance of doubt, I would like to categorically state that I as a member of the leadership of the House of Representatives, I have never been invited or interrogated by the police or the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on the so-called 2016 budget saga. My empty accounts too were never frozen either.
Also, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, said the House would not interfere in a judicial matter between the Federal Government and SERAP.
He said that it was not “impossible” that politics was linked with the case as well. Namdas added, “We should not have any opinion on this. Let the government and SERAP sort each other out on what the court said.
“Again, be reminded that this is electioneering period; the 2019 polls are close.So, it is not surprising that suddenly, some of these issues are being thrown up again. For us, we won’t tell another arm of government to stop their work.”
Meanwhile, the Senate on Friday insisted that the National Assembly leadership did not engage in padding the 2016 budget.
It also denied knowledge of the judgment by a Federal High Court in Lagos, which on Tuesday ordered President Muhammadu Buhari to prosecute the National Assembly leadership for padding the 2016 budget.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday the Senate had yet to get the details of the judgment.
He also insisted that the National Assembly did not engage in budget padding. Sabi-Abdullahi stated that the lawmakers were empowered to effect changes in an appropriation bill, just like any other bill laid before the legislature.
He said, “We have not yet been briefed on what the judgment is. We don’t know the details of the judgment, so we cannot react to what we don’t have a full knowledge of. The fact still remains that we maintain our position that the National Assembly does not engage in padding. In the course of doing our job, there are addition and subtraction, and I don’t see how that amounts to padding. At the end of the day, the document (bill) becomes one that will be signed (by the President) to become an Act. And if it is signed, it becomes a law.
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