There is uneasy calm in the House of Representatives as the former chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, has called on Speaker Yakubu Dogara, his deputy, Yussuff Lasun, minority leader, Leo Ogor and chief whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa to resign for alleged budget padding.
Jibrin accused Dogara and the other principal officers of illegally inserting and allocating projects worth over N20 billion to their constituencies in the 2016 Budget.
He explained that his refusal to inject another N30 billion into the budget for the speaker earned him the removal. In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, the former appropriation chairman said: “I strongly believe with every conviction that in cleaning up the budget system and considering what transpired during 2016 budget, which I have all the facts documented, Speaker Dogara, Deputy Speaker Lasun, Whip Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor should resign.
“These members of the body of principal officers were not comfortable with my independent disposition and my refusal to cover up their unilateral decision to allocate to themselves N40 billion out of the N100 billion allocated to the entire National Assembly.
The four of them met and took that decision. In addition to billions of wasteful projects running to over N20 billion they allocated to their constituencies. They must come out clean. “My inability to admit into the budget almost N30 billion personal requests from Mr. Speaker and the three other principal offi cers also became an issue. I wish I could, but where will I get such money in a tight budget year like this? I have every documented evidence to this effect.”
Jibrin threatened: “I will be releasing a more detailed statement in due course.” “Meanwhile, I intend to explore all internal avenues of the house to brief my colleagues in details and testify against Speaker Dogara, Deputy Lasun, Whip Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor on why they should resign.
“If I am not allowed to exercise my privilege, I shall consider legal options. I can no longer bear the brunt of abuses and baseless allegations keeping quiet all in the name of “confidentiality” expected of an appropriation chairman.
I will not allow anybody, no matter how highly placed, to destroy my life.” According to Jibrin, “After the submission of the first version of the budget, which was returned by Mr. President, I briefed members in executive session and told them as agreed at our pre-budget meeting with chairmen and deputy chairmen of standing committees.
We simply adopted their reports with little amendments. Nobody faulted my submission. Members insisted they must know how the N100 billion was allocated. I told them the truth.
“Since after that meeting, Mr. Speaker, with the support of the three other principal officers, effectively blocked me from briefing members, ensured I was not at the last executive session and refused to investigate issues I raised that I believe must be addressed, if we intend to build a better budget system for the House.
I gave Mr. Speaker statistics of 2000 new projects introduced into the budget by less than 10 committee chairmen without the knowledge of their committee members. He did nothing about it because he was part of the mess, yet he is talking about improving the budget system.
“I did nothing wrong. I worked within the rules of the House and instructions of Mr. Speaker. During the budget period, Mr. President graciously granted myself and Senator Goje audience.
It was a very good meeting. Speaker Dogara took it extremely personal that we saw the president without his knowledge and went on to scuttle all our efforts to help the president during the budget process because he wants to be seen by the president as the only good man.
“He forgot that he sees heads of MDAs, which he enjoys doing more than his job as speaker for reasons best known to him anyway, daily without Mr. President’s knowledge. That is how petty and narrowminded Dogara can be.
A coward, hypocrite and pretender of the highest order. Mr. President must be very careful with him. He wines with Mr. President and dines with Mr. President’s enemies.” The lawmaker said he was “obliged to make further statement after listening to the full statement of Speaker Dogara on why I had to leave as Chairman Appropriation.” “It is a fact I went up to the Speaker and told him clearly I want to leave.
Thereafter, I proceeded to my office. I was, therefore, not surprised when an aide of mine walked into my office to inform me that the Speaker had announced my departure. I was relieved and went straight to address the press and released a statement. It was only later in the night while monitoring the news that I understood the full statement he made on the floor.
“The plan is to execute it just before the recess, so that by the time we return, I would have been buried and the issue forgotten. Mr. Speaker, this issue will never be swept under the carpet. We are closing for recess with it and we shall commence the next session with this issue. This was the last option they have after every attempt to find something to nail me failed.
“My offence was asserting my independence and insisting we do the right thing at all times and expose corrupt people in the House. Lately, I openly disagreed with some principal officers on the issue of immunity and budget issues. I still maintained I will never support immunity,” Jibrin stated. However, the leadership of the House has dismissed allegations of budget padding and the calls for the resignation of Dogara and some principal officers by the former appropriation committee chairman as non-issue.
In his response to allegations raised by Jibrin, House spokesman, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas, said: “Most of the allegations on the 2016 budget process and his opposition to immunity of presiding officers are non-issues and mere afterthought manufactured simply because the House relieved him of his position.
“We wish to say that it is the prerogative of the Selection Committee of the House to appoint and remove Committee Chairmen. That power has been so exercised in the case of Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin as chairman of Appropriation Committee.
“If he had all these ‘facts’ before, why didn’t he make them public? Why is he doing that now?” According to the spokesman, “Jibrin, like any other member of the House, knows that there are conventions and precedents as it relates to budgets and projects for principal officers of the National Assembly.