DSS has no legal right investigating budget padding —Falana

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, on Sunday said the Department of State Services (DSS) lacked the moral and legal rights to carry out the probe of the lawmakers involved in the budget padding.

Falana further noted that the DSS had by recent acts lost moral right to probe the scam and thus, could not be trusted with such responsibility.

He also said there was no legal backing for the DSS to embark on such investigation as the agency, according to the senior lawyer, by virtue of National Security Agencies Act, was strictly limited to the preservation and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria.

He said since the alleged budget padding was a form of economic crime and had nothing to do with internal security, the DSS should be stopped from going ahead with the investigation.

“It was reported last week that the Nigeria Police had commenced investigations into the criminal allegation of the padding of the national budget by some members of the House of Representatives.

“Some  civil society organisations  have also requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to wade into the matter. Curiously, the State Security Service (DSS) is alleged to have usurped the statutory duties of the police and the anti-graft agencies by taking over the investigation of the padding of the budget.

“Based on the illegal decision to take over the investigation the DSS is reported to have sealed off the office of the chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives.

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

“More importantly, by virtue of the provisions of the National Security Agencies Act the powers of the DSS are strictly limited to the preservation and detection within Nigeria of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria.

“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 round to challenge the legal validity of any criminal charge arising from  a faulty investigation report.

“They  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.

“In the light of the foregoing, the police and the anti-graft agencies should be allowed to get to the root of the criminality of budget padding in the National Assembly,” he said.