N481bn padded budget: Lawmakers' proxies besiege MDAs to retrieve money

By The Citizen

Surrogates of top National Assembly ,NASS, members have besieged key Federal Government parastatals to retrieve funds allegedly smuggled into such agencies in the process of approving the 2016 budget.

Although the leadership of the NASS had denied any wrongdoing, Saturday Vanguard obtained documents showing how the lawmakers used their positions to doctor the budget submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari and conferred special financial advantage to themselves.

The legislators, it was discovered, inserted a whopping N481 billion and carefully kept the sum in some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs, whose heads, they plan to use in cornering the sums.

Saturday Vanguard reliably gathered that the legislators had asked their surrogates to retrieve the huge amount of cash they stashed away in the agencies before the year runs out.

In two states, one in the North and another in the South, two Senators made a fortune from the Cross River Basin Development Authority, Sokoto Rima Basin Development Authority and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, where they were believed to have inserted projects worth N2.2 billion under the guise of constituency projects.

The controversial Senator from the South-South was believed to have secured rural water and sanitation projects worth N1.2 billion in the Cross River Basin Authority.

He was said to have directed his brothers and kinsmen to use companies unrelated to him and his family in getting the contracts from the CRBRDA and funnel the money to him and those chosen as beneficiaries.

The Senator was believed to have originally inserted projects worth N4 billion into the 2016 budget before it was scaled down following the rejection of the estimate by President Buhari in April this year.

He was said to have grudgingly accepted the sum of N3.4 billion, which he hid away in CRBRDA and SMEDAN and some other agencies.

Two Zamfara State lawmakers are now being watched by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for reportedly taking away a huge sum of N1 billion under the guise of constituency projects with no projects in the state to show for it.

The two lawmakers were gathered to have connived with key officials of the Rima Basin Development Authority to award contracts worth N1 billion to companies for projects which were not seen anywhere in the state.

Angered by the development, the Gummi Emirate Development Association petitioned the EFCC and the Attorney-General of the Federation to investigate the two lawmakers and bring them to book.

Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had swung into action to bring to book those who allegedly padded the budget.

But the NASS claimed that it was mandated by the law to alter the budget submitted by the Executive, insisting that there was nothing wrong with adding or subtracting from what the President presented.

They cited sections 59, 80 and 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, as well as the Fiscal Responsibility Act CAP F40, LFN 2004 to buttress their action.

The NASS is currently at loggerhead with the executive arm of government over moves by the Federal Government to punish the brains behind the insertion of illegal projects worth N481 billion into the 2016 budget.