Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), added his voice to the call for investigation and prosecution of federal lawmakers involved in the padding of the 2016 budget, but said the Department of State Service lacked both the moral and legal rights to carry out the probe.
Falana said in a statement on Sunday that the DSS had by its recent acts lost moral right to probe the scam and thus could not be trusted with such responsibility.
He cited as an example, DSS’ recent arrest and detention of the principal officers and administrative staff of the Zamfara State House of Assembly for attempting to commence an impeachment proceedings against Governor Mohammed Yari on grounds of alleged corrupt practices
He also said there was no legal backing for the DSS to embark on such investigation as the agency, according to the senior lawyer, by virtue of National Security Agencies Act, was strictly limited to the “preservation and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria.”
He said since the alleged budget padding was a form of economic crime and had nothing to do with internal security, the DSS should be stopped from going ahead with the investigation.
He also said the police as well as other anti-graft agencies should be allowed to get to root of the scam and bring the culprits to book.
Falana said, “It was reported last week that the Nigeria Police Force had commenced investigations into the criminal allegation of the padding of the national budget by some members of the House of Representatives.
“Some civil society organisations have also requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission to wade into the matter. Curiously, the State Security Service (Department of State Service) is alleged to have usurped the statutory duties of the police and the anti graft agencies by taking over the investigation of the padding of the budget.
“Based on the illegal decision to take over the investigation the DSS is reported to have sealed off the office of the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives.
“Having regard to the recent activities of the SSS and the clear provisions of the relevant laws on investigation of corruption and other economic and financial crimes the DSS lacks the moral right and legal powers to interfere in the investigation of the criminal allegation of padding of the budget in any manner whatsoever.”
He added, “More importantly, by virtue of the provisions of the National Security Agencies Act the powers of the SSS are strictly limited to the ‘preservation and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria.’
“Since the padding of the national budget is a straight forward case of economic crime which is not concerned with the internal security of the nation the SSS should not play into the soiled hands of the criminal suspects in the House of Representatives as they may later turn round to challenge the legal validity of any criminal charge arising from a faulty investigation report.
“The SSS should be called to order as the nation cannot afford to bungle the investigation of the highly placed politically exposed persons involved in the padding of the budget.
“In the light of the foregoing, the Police and the anti graft agencies should be allowed to get to the root of the criminality of budget padding in the National Assembly.”