The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has said that budget padding amounts to corruption as the action is against the public interest.
SERAP’s position is contained in a statement issued by the Executive Director of the project, Mr Adetokunbo Mumuni and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.
SERAP is making its position known against the backdrop of the claim by the Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara that budget padding is not a crime under Nigerian law.
Dogara was quoted to have said on Friday in Abuja after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential villa that ``budget padding is not an offence.
``What is padding? I studied law and I have been in the legislature.
``I have never heard of the word `padding being an offence under any law. Why should I be worried? As far as I am concerned, I am not worried over anything.”
The statement, however, said that budget padding was indeed an act of corruption.
``The allegations against Dogara and other principal officers of the House also suggest a subversion of the budget process.
``This in itself is a crime and also a fundamental breach of constitutional provisions and an affront to internationally recognized human rights.
``A prima-facie case of corruption is established when elected officials are allegedly influenced to act contrary to their obligations of office by the prospect of financial gain to themselves.
``Budget padding also amounts to corruption as the action is against public interest.
``Any appearance of corruption in the budget process can result in a cynical public or losing interest in political participation altogether,’’ the statement said.
According to the statement, democracy cannot work unless Nigerians have faith in those, who govern them.
``If Dogara refuses to resign for investigation and the allegations of budget padding are swept under the carpet, the ability of the House to function as a credible guardian of public interest would be seriously compromised.
``The allegations of budget padding and abuse of office by the speaker and principal officers of the House have continued to outrage the public, bringing the House’s integrity further into question.
``Dogara, therefore, has a duty to explain to Nigerians the role he played in the alleged budget padding in the House,’’ Mumuni said in the statement.
The SERAP chief said the truth about the alleged budget padding and abuse of office could have been kept from the public.
He added that the House could also have decided to treat the matter as an internal one or a case of ``see no evil, speak no evil”.