The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said those who participated in the budget padding saga would not go without being punished.
The EFCC Deputy Director, Operations, Lagos Office, Iliyasu Kwarbai, said this on Monday while addressing a coalition of over 30 civil society organisations that took to the streets of Lagos to protest against the budget padding saga in the lower chambers of the National Assembly.
Kwarbai explained that although the commission had received a series of petitions, the EFCC had to carry out preliminary investigations before inviting accused persons.
He said, “We are already in receipt of petitions from some other members of the public and the investigation is being done in Abuja. When petitions are received, we look at them, make some analyses, and commence investigation.
“We do what we call preliminary investigation without inviting the accused persons. We carry out some investigations and gather some facts to ascertain the truthfulness of that petition. When we find them culpable, then, we go into inviting the accused persons.
“What we are doing is to look at the case since we have already received some of the petitions; our men are already on the ground, carrying out very thorough investigations. So don’t be in doubt; the EFCC cannot be cowed. Anybody involved in corruption, no matter how highly placed, we don’t cover any person at all.
“Once we receive your petition, once it is being investigated, once you are indicted, definitely, we go into inviting you. Definitely, whoever is involved in the issue of budget padding will never go free.”
Earlier the rights groups had asked the anti-graft agency to ensure that Dogara and nine other principal officers of the House be investigated.
The groups, which brandished placards such as ‘EFCC probe NASS illegal allowances’; ‘No immunity for economic criminality, probe budget padding’; and ‘Save Nigeria from legislative thieves’, said the 10 principal officers of the House of Representatives fingered in the budget padding ought not to be walking freely.
The Executive Director, Conscience Nigeria, Tosin Adeyanju, who spoke on behalf of the groups before delivering their petition to the EFCC officials in Lagos, said, “He (Dogara) has no immunity. If governors’ accounts are being frozen, I don’t know why Speaker Dogara’s account should be left free.
“I don’t know why Jibrin, Femi Gbajabiamila, Leo Ogor and Doguwa should be walking freely.”
The former Chairman, Committee on Appropriation of the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin, had, earlier on July 21, accused Dogara; Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun; Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, of padding the budget by over N40bn.
Jibrin, whom the principal officers said was sacked for “abusing” the 2016 budget, had recently alleged that other principal officers of the House, including himself, had illegally collected about N10bn between 2003 and 2015.