State lawmakers slam Dogara, say padding is corruption
More troubles came the way of the embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Saturday, as lawmakers from State Houses of Assembly carpeted him for claiming that ‘padding’ was not an act of corruption but a normal legislative process.
The state legislators in separate interviews with PUNCH correspondents across the country, expressed their anger against Dogara and maintained that ‘padding’ is criminal and that whoever is involved in such act should be prosecuted.
The Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr. Ali Ahmad, said budget padding is an offence especially when the Speaker failed to carry the entire members along in the addition and subtraction of figures.
He said, “When a budget is presented to the National Assembly, it is the duty of the legislature to look into the proposal, make necessary addition or subtraction of both the items and the amounts involved.
“This must be known to the relevant committees and the House.
“Illegal padding is corruption because you are corruptly using the name of the House, to put something which the House is not aware of.”
Also, the Ondo State House of Assembly maintained that Dogara should stop defending the act of padding because it is a corrupt practice which should not be happening in a normal legislative assembly.
The House also called on the speaker to resign and allow thorough investigation into the matter.
The Deputy Speaker, Mr. Fatai Olotu, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, described budget padding as a corrupt practice and blamed President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress for keeping silent on the matter.
He said, “The ongoing budget padding at the House of Representatives is nothing but a corrupt practice, because after the budget has been passed, any item injected into it without the knowledge of the majority of members of the House or the executive that passed it into law, is illegal and a criminal act.
“In a normal democratic setting, the Speaker should resign because he has been mentioned in the process of the budget padding. But unfortunately the anti- corruption government of the APC sees nothing wrong in the matter because we have not heard them saying anything about it.”
On his part, the Chairman, Committee on Information of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Gboyega Aribisogan, also described padding as corruption.
Aribisogan said, “It is corruption. If something is inserted into a budget after deliberation by the whole House and it is not known to other members or the person that will append his signature; it is corruption. It is a dishonest action. Dishonesty is corruption.”
In Bayelsa, the lawmaker, representing Ogbia Constituency 3 in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Gabriel Ogbara, said budget padding is corruption if the legislature fails to consult with the executive on the matter.
Ogbara, who contended that padding was not a normal legislative process, however, said if padding was required, the lawmakers should inform the executive.
He said, “Whether padding is corruption or not, depends on the process. You cannot discuss an issue such as padding without having an understanding of the people and the executive.
“Padding is not a normal legislative process because it is not our duty as legislators to pad but if that is required, it means the legislature has to go back to the executive arm to know because you cannot add something which the executive is not aware of.
“So, it is corruption if the legislature fails to consult the executive to arrive at a consensus.”
Erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, said Dogara and Jibrin should resign so that relevant agencies can properly probe the various allegations in the lawmaking chamber.
He said, “Given the revelations that budget padding has been a practice that lawmakers in the National Assembly have used to pillage our common wealth, the duo of Dogara and Jibrin can resign on moral grounds in order to give teeth to the fight against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“Even with that, it would be necessary to take a look at both the letter and the spirit of the provision for constituency projects for members of the legislature as to whether the practice has served the larger interest of the constituencies with a view to reconsidering the practice for common good,” Sani told SUNDAY PUNCH.
Similarly, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders has called on the Federal Government to ensure that all the parties involved in the budget padding were probed.
The Executive Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the allegations were “too serious to be ignored.”
He said, “The allegations are too grievous and make thorough investigations inevitable. Anyone found guilty of violating laid-down rules, procedures and the constitution should be prosecuted.
“It is therefore clear from the division in the House of Representatives over the budget padding saga that the matter cannot be reduced to one which the lawmakers can handle internally.
“We have always called for circumspection, thorough investigations, diligent prosecution and regard for the rule of law when situations like this arise and that is where we stand on this matter too,” Adeniran stated.
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