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Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has said that the Department of State Security (DSS) does not have the legal powers to investigate the House of Representatives over the budget padding scandal rocking the lower chamber.

As contained in a statement issued on Monday, August 1, Falana said that the Police Force last week reportedly commenced investigations into the allegations, while some civil society organisations also requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offenses Commission to investigate the allegations.

Falana said the DSS allegedly disregarded the statutory duties of the Police and the anti-graft agencies by taking over the budget padding investigations.

The DSS was alleged to have sealed off the office of the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House.

“Having regard to the recent activities of the SSS and the clear provisions of the relevant laws on the investigation of corruption and other economic and financial crimes the SSS 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,” Falana said.

“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 around 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.”

The senior lawyer said that nothing and nobody should interfere with the investigations of the Police and the anti-graft agencies.

“However, it ought to be pointed out that the investigation would not be complete if it is not extended to cover the criminal allegation of diversion of over N300 billion via constituency projects purportedly executed by the past and serving federal legislators.

“However, to carry out a thorough investigation the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives should be made to give details of the 2016 budget of the National Assembly,” Falana stated.

According to him, the DSS does not also have the moral right to investigate the padding allegations, citing the agency's action in Zamfara State, where its operatives arrested and detained the principal officers and administrative staff of the House of Assembly for attempting to impeach Governor Mohammed Yari on grounds of alleged corrupt practices.

Falana added: “In addition, the top civil servants who colluded with the legislators to alter the 2016 national budget should hand over to the Police and anti-graft agencies for investigation and prosecution."

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He stressed that now is the time to stop the looting of the treasury through the padding of the budget by civil servants, ministers, and legislators.

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