A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights, and Accountability Project (SERAP) says the National Assembly violated the fundamental rights of Nigerians by cutting the proposed allocations for essential public services, including health, education, housing and security, to the tune of N19.15bn in the 2018 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
SERAP, in a statement on Thursday by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said the action of the federal lawmakers qualified as crime against humanity and should as such be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The group expressed dismay that the federal lawmakers “padded” the 2018 budget to the tune of N578bn by inserting 6,403 projects of their own, barely a month after the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered that the principal officers of the National Assembly that allegedly padded the 2016 budget to the tune of N481bn should be prosecuted.
SERAP urged Buhari to not only instruct the Attorney General of the Federation to refer the 2018 budget cut to the ICC, but to also comply with the judgment of Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos, who ordered that all the lawmakers culpable in the padding of the 2016 budget should be prosecuted.
The group said it believed that it was the failure to decisively address the padding of the 2016 budget that emboldened the lawmakers to do the same with the 2018 budget.
SERAP said, “The deliberate and systematic acts of alleged budget padding and cutting of funding by the lawmakers coupled with the widespread negative consequences of such acts for millions of Nigerians across the country point to not only allegations of corruption but also crimes against humanity, that is, deliberately withholding access of Nigerians to essential and life-saving public services, which is triable at the International Criminal Court.
“Apart from pursuing a possible crime against humanity prosecution before the ICC, President Buhari should also move swiftly to enforce the judgment delivered last month by Justice Mohammed Idris in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/1821/2017, ordering the President to ask anti-corruption agencies to forward to him reports of their investigations into allegations of padding and stealing of some N481 billion from the 2016 budget, and to ensure effort prosecution of suspects.
“It is the failure to decisively address allegations of padding of the 2016 budget that has allowed the practice to continue with almost absolute impunity.
“Combating impunity of lawmakers for allegations of budget padding is important for ending the practice and deterring future lawmakers from using their legislative functions as a weapon for promoting personal gains and denying Nigerians access to critical and life-saving public services.”