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SERAP drags House of Reps to UN over alleged budget padding

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an

urgent appeal to Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme

Poverty and Human Rights urging him to “use your good offices and position

to urgently request the leadership of the House of Representatives of

Nigeria to explain the alleged deliberate padding of the 2016 budget with

N481 billion (Nigerian Naira), removal of critical projects and

replacement of such projects with constituency projects, which have not

only undermined the fight against corruption in the country but also

exacerbated extreme poverty and violations of internationally recognized

human rights.”
The petition dated 27 July 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director

Adetokunbo Mumuni states that, “SERAP considers the alleged budget

padding, diversion of public funds and abuse of office by the leadership

of the House of Representatives as amounting to a deliberate retrogressive

action, which cannot be justified by reference to the totality of

internationally recognized human rights, and in the context of the

obligation to fully use the maximum available resources to fulfil and

ensure the enjoyment of those rights.”
The petition copied to Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for

Human Rights; the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention

against Corruption and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, also states that,

“We are concerned that the alleged corrupt budget process in the House of

Representatives in the context of an economy already weakened by years of

large scale corruption will jeopardise sustainable development and hurt

ordinary Nigerians who rely on the government to provide basic necessities

of life such as water, good roads and electricity.”

The petition reads in part: “SERAP is seriously concerned about the lack

of transparency and accountability of the National Assembly, which is not

consistent with the behaviour of an institution that is constitutionally

mandated to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria.

This lack of accountability partly explains why ordinary Nigerians do not

trust the National Assembly, and its ability to make laws for the peace,

order and good governance of Nigeria, and to curb corruption within its

systems.”
“SERAP is concerned that the longstanding practice of constituency

projects by the National Assembly of Nigeria and the corresponding alleged

diversion of public funds have continued to systematically drain the

country's “maximum available resources”, precipitating poverty, and

economic crisis which inevitably magnify dispossession, hunger, disease,

illiteracy, and insecurity.”
“Alleged budget padding and abuse of office by the leadership of the House

of Representatives in particular and the National Assembly in general also

have uneven consequences against the vulnerable groups of the society,

including the poor, women and children, perpetrating and

institutionalizing discrimination. By allegedly exploiting public funds

for the personal gain of leaders rather than socio-economic development of

the country, constituency projects jeopardize the needs and well-being of

future generations as well.”
“SERAP notes that the Nigerian constitution 1999 (as amended) grants

legislative power to the National Assembly to “make laws for the peace,

order and good government”. SERAP believes that this power implies that

the National Assembly including the House of Representatives will serve as

a crucial bastion of transparency, accountability, and the rule of law

that are necessary to reduce poverty, establish a corruption-free society,

and effective enjoyment of human rights.”
“SERAP is seriously concerned that in the process of alleged budget

padding the leadership of the House of Representatives removed key

projects such as on roads, electricity and/or drastically reduced their

costs. These projects ordinarily would have contributed to reducing the

effects and consequences of poverty in the country while also enhancing

respect for human rights.”
“We believe that the allegations that the leadership of the House of

Representatives worked to abuse the budget process to benefit themselves

at the expense of the majority of Nigerians is a fundamental breach of

constitutional oath and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and

Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party, which requires states

to use their maximum available resources to promote and secure the

enjoyment of basic economic and social rights such as the rights to food,

to healthcare, to access to quality education and adequate standards of

living.”
“Article 2(1) of the Covenant provides that each State party to the

present Covenant undertakes to take steps to the maximum of its available

resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of

the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means,

including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.”

“This implies that government at all levels including the National

Assembly has a duty to ensure that public funds are used to benefit

Nigerians and not for personal use. Human rights cannot be achieved

without significant expenditure in critical areas of governance.”

SERAP therefore urged the Special Rapporteur to:
1. Publicly express concerns about the allegations of budget padding

and diversion of public funds and abuse of office by the leadership of the

House of Representatives, thereby exacerbating extreme poverty and

violations of human rights;
2. Put pressure on the leadership of the House of Representatives to

allow for independent and transparent investigation of the allegations of

budget padding, diversion of public funds and abuse of office, and not to

victimize Mr Jubrin for blowing the whistle on the allegations of

corruption in the House;
3. Make sure that alleged corruption in the House of Representatives

is not allowed to undermine the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to

advance human rights and address extreme poverty;
4. Urge the National Assembly, in particular the House of

Representatives to promote in its legislative duties transparency and

accountability and observe human rights principles, and that the exercise

of its legislative power complies with Nigeria's international human

rights obligations and commitments
The petition reads further: “This request is based on allegations by the

immediate past Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations,

Abdulmunin Jibrin, and available documents that Speaker Yakubu Dogara and

three other principal officers of the House of the Representatives padded

the 2016 budget to the tune of N481 billion and included N100 billion on

constituency projects, contrary to the provisions of the 1999

Constitution.”
“Mr Jubrin also accused Mr Dogara and Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun, Chief

Whip, Hassan Ado Doguwa and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor of perpetrating

financial fraud; that Mr Dogara is running the finances of the House like

his personal estate; that Mr Dogara and the other principal officers

diverted millions of naira in the name of paying for guest houses and

official residence; that Mr Dogara abuses his office by soliciting for

inappropriate favours from agencies and multinational companies; and that

Mr Dogara forced an agency to grant loans and a construction company was

blackmailed to do some work at his Asokoro plot. Other allegations by Mr

Jubrin and supported by documents now circulating on the internet are that

Dogara has consistently refused members access to the financial dealings

and internal budget of the House; that Mr Dogara runs the financial

management of the House like a cult.”
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