Budget padding: SERAP drags House of Reps to UN

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has appealed to the United Nation Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Prof. Philip Alston, investigate allegations of budget padding in the House of Representatives.

“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 N481bn, removal of critical projects and replacement of such projects with constituency projects,” SERAP wrote in a petition to Alston.

According to SERAP, the development has undermined the fight against corruption and increased extreme poverty as well as violations of internationally recognised human rights in the country.

The petition, which was dated July 27, 2016, was signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.

It 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 also expressed concern about constituency projects, which are allegedly used by lawmakers to divert public funds and systematically drain the country’s available resources, “precipitating poverty, and economic crisis which inevitably magnify dispossession, hunger, disease, illiteracy, and insecurity”.

It, therefore, called on Alston to among other things put pressure on the leadership of the House of Representatives to allow for an independent and transparent investigation of the allegations of budget padding, diversion of public funds and abuse of office, and not to victimise the lawmaker, Abdulmumin Jubrin, who levelled allegations of corruption against the leadership of the House.

“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,” SERAP said.

The Covenant 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 health care, to access to quality education and adequate standards of living.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Al Hussein; the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption and the Inter-Parliamentary Union were copied in the petition.

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