Budget Padding : 250 Reps want Dogara to step down – Jibrin
A former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, says at least 250 out of the 360 members of the House have signed a petition calling for the probe and removal of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara. He added that the Department of State Services had beefed up security around him due to threats he had been receiving.
Jibrin said this on Thursday during a programme on Africa Independent Television, titled,‘Focus Nigeria.’
The lawmaker claimed that some of his colleagues even demanded that they marched down to the secretariat of the appropriations committee, but he told them that it was not yet time to do so.
Jibrin said part of the demands of the lawmakers was that Dogara should immediately reconvene the House, which is on holiday, and then step down and allow a thorough probe of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
He, also, said Dogara had become jittery and had refused to give in to their demands. He said the intention of Dogara was to ensure that the House remained on recess until September when the tension would have been doused.
He said, “I am not alone, I am with many members. Yesterday (Wednesday), a lot of them said they wanted to go to the secretariat with me, but I said no. I didn’t want us to make the thing to look like a movie.
“We have the transparency group and it did not just start now; so no one can say Jibrin initiated it. It was formed even before we went on holiday. Anyone that says we are lying must be a joker because there were about 200 signatures before we left for holiday.
“Now, they have increased to about 250. Another group has emerged aside the integrity group and these groups have come together and all they are asking Mr. Speaker to do is to reconvene the House immediately and step down, but the body language of Mr. Speaker and a few corrupt people around him is that the issue would have died down when we resume in September and Nigerians would have forgotten.
“You are corrupt and you are talking about September. What we are asking for is that Mr. Speaker should reconvene the House immediately and step down so that internal and external investigations can go on concurrently.”
Jibrin said apart from the Speaker, the culprits in the budget padding allegations were the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor; and the Chief Whip, Alhassan Doguwa.
He said the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, was not part of the alleged budget padding because Gbajabiamila had been marginalised by Dogara and was not in the chamber’s inner caucus.
The lawmaker said he used to be friends with Gbajabiamila, but they had not been on talking terms since last year when he supported Dogara for the post of the Speaker.
“People keep asking why I didn’t mention Femi (Gbajabiamila). I tried to explain that it is these four principal officers – the Speaker, the deputy, the whip and the minority leader – that are involved. Everyone who knows the House will tell you that these four people have hijacked it.
“The meeting where they decided to divert N40bn was at the office of the Speaker and it was the four of them that insisted. Even though I am not on good terms with Femi, he has not been involved in the decisions of the House even as the Leader. He has been excluded from key decisions in the House.”
Jibrin said he made 25 allegations against the Speaker and his cohorts, adding that he had concrete evidence, which he was willing to present.
He accused the minority leader of diverting the money budgeted for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
Jibrin said, “When I look at Leo Ogor, who has the audacity to go on screen and talk, I fear for the future of this country. This is somebody who practically made nonsense of the Niger Delta Ministry’s budget. It was the beginning of my disagreement with him and I have documents to prove it.
“He (Ogor) brought in all his projects into the budget. He basically took over the budget of the Niger Delta Ministry. The minister complained several times, but he couldn’t do anything about it and I told Ogor that the way he was carrying on was not the way to prepare budget.’’
He added, “When you talk of massive movement of money in the budget, people will say the lawmakers have the power. Yes, I have also come out to say that the lawmakers have the power to move money, but the issue is that the Constitution did not envisage that a lawmaker will do it like someone who needs to be taken to a psychiatric hospital.
“For instance, a local government may have the capacity to use 10 transformers, but if a lawmaker decided to inflate it to 50 transformers, it is corruption; it is fraud. So, there is a limit to appropriation.”
Jibrin also said the Speaker had come up with a plot to defraud all the lawmakers under the guise of providing accommodation for them.
“How can the Speaker write to members to contribute a part of their running costs to build houses for them? A project being carried out by his own consultants! The money is meant for members to procure constituency offices, hold town hall meetings and do research; and you want to divert the money for that kind of project!”
Step-down demand a lie –Reps
Some members of the House of Representatives on Thursday dared Jibrin to produce the evidence that 250 lawmakers had demanded the resignation of Dogara.
The members told one of our correspondents that they were becoming tired of Jibrin’s “unsubstantiated” allegations.
The Leader of Jibrin’s North-West Caucus, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, an All Progressives Congress lawmaker, who is also from Kano State like Jibrin, challenged Jibrin to publish the register to buttress his claim.
Ado-Doguwa said, “Jibrin does not have any member on his side. Even in Kano, where he claims to have come from, he does not have any member with him.
“I am in possession of a document containing signatures of about 20 members from Kano State supporting the Speaker, Dogara, and other principal officers.
“Jibrin is a blackmailer trying to whip up sentiments. He is fighting a lone battle, which will ultimately consume him.”
Some members also wondered how Jibrin got 250 members out of 360 to sign signatures at a time the House was on recess.
“The majority of members have actually travelled out of the country. This is just a media war, which other members only read and heard; they are not in Nigeria,” a lawmaker, who declined to be named, said.
Ogor told reporters that Jibrin needed the attention of a psychiatrist.
He said, “I am amazed at how people continue to follow Jibrin and his lies. Is it that they don’t have basic questions to ask him?
“How do you open your mouth to say one person hijacked the budget of a whole ministry or a region?
“Please, take this young man to see a psychiatrist for some urgent attention. Besides, the budget is a public document. Is it too difficult to pick a copy and find out what this fellow is talking about?”
Findings by our correspondents indicated that about 100 members signed a document before they proceeded on break on June 21.
But it was gathered that the document was for the budgeting process to be made transparent.
“How it now changed direction to calls for resignation of the Speaker by 250 members is what doesn’t add up,” one senior member stated.
House Majority Leader, Gbajabiamila, could not be reached on Thursday as he was said to be out of the country.
However, a source confirmed that Gbajabiamila and Jibrin were not on good terms, as they had hardly exchanged greetings since the inauguration of the 8th Assembly on June 9, 2015.
“That is why this thinking that Gbajabiamila and Jibrin could be working together is far from being the truth,” the source said.
Buhari to meet Dogara today
Barring any last minute change in schedule, President Muhammadu Buhari will on Friday (today) grant audience to Dogara.
It was learnt on Thursday that the raging controversy over the alleged padding of the 2016 budget would form a major part of the discussion at the meeting.
A presidency source, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Thursday, said the scheduled meeting between the President and the Speaker was at the instance of Dogara.
The source said the Speaker might have sought for an audience with the President to explain his side of the story.
He said Buhari agreed to meet Dogara in his office after Jumat prayers.
He said, “The President will be meeting with the Speaker after Jumat on Friday (today).
“The meeting will hold around 2.30pm in the President’s office.
“There is nothing unusual in the two leaders meeting. They do so regularly, but I know this one is at the instance of the Speaker.”
When asked if Dogara would seek the President’s protection against investigation and prosecution, the source said Buhari’s position on corruption was known to all.
“We all know the President’s position on corruption. With that, I don’t think the Speaker will make any demand on him apart from stating his side of the story,” he said.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, had in a recent interview given an indication that Buhari would not interfere in the House of Representatives’ matters, especially as it concerns the padding allegations.
“This is purely a matter for the House of Representatives to deal with,” Adesina had said.
APC bars Jibrin from public comments
The All Progressives Congress on Thursday began moves to silence Jibrin over the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
Jibrin, in his petition to security agencies, including the police, had accused the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, and 12 others of padding the budget.
The National Working Committee of the APC, in a letter to Jibrin signed by the party’s Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu, and dated August 4, 2016, asked the lawmaker to stop further comments on the padding scandal either through conventional or social media.
In the letter titled, ‘The crisis in the House of Representatives’, the APC said it was not happy with the developments in the House.
In the NWC’s letter, the party leadership stated that it found it embarrassing to have to deal with the scandal.
The letter read in part, “As you are aware, the party and, indeed, the government have not been happy over the recent developments in the House of Representatives over the issue of the 2016 budget. We found it embarrassing to have to deal with another new phenomenon you tagged ‘Budget Padding.’
“However, I write to thank you for your cooperation in honouring our intervention and your readiness to afford the party the chance to handle the House of Representatives ‘budget padding’ crisis.
“Arising from the meetings we held with you over the subject matter, the National Working Committee has decided to request you to, henceforth, avoid issuing any public statement on this matter. This includes statements through the social media or other means of transmitting an opinion on the matter to the public, as the party is now looking into it towards finding a possible solution.
“While counting on your cooperation, please accept my sincere best wishes.”
The APC ‘s NWC had met with Dogara and Jibrin separately on Tuesday, with the aim of addressing the crisis and preventing the removal of the Speaker.
But a day after meeting with party leaders, Jibrin went on Twitter, alleging that Dogara handed out $25,000 each to lawmakers so that they could pass a vote of confidence on the speaker.
The lawmaker also claimed that the Speaker opened a register at his Asokoro guest house where each member who signed was handed the cash.
Jibrin had, last week, made a similar allegation against nine members of the House Committee on Appropriation, who disowned him. In the case of the appropriation committee lawmakers, Jibrin alleged that they took a bribe of $20,000 each.
Jibrin heeds party’s directive
Jibrin on Thursday evening seemed to have heeded the directive of the APC leaders on the budget padding.
The lawmaker, who had early on Thursday continued his attacks on the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, seemed to have yielded to pressure from the party leaders around 5.35pm.
The former chairman of appropriation committee, who had been posting messages relating to the budget padding on his Twitter handle, on Thursday evening posted a picture where he was kissing his wife.
Obviously referring to the directive of the APC leaders, he stated, “Since I can’t post anything else, let me just celebrate my wife.”