Budget padding: Jibrin makes fresh allegations

FORMER chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin, on Sunday, said he regretted joining efforts in making Honourable Yakubu Dogara speaker of the House, in view of the enormity of the padding he (Dogara) allegedly inflicted on the 2016 budget.

The former chairman, in a statement he personally signed, said his acusations were directed at the Speaker and not the entire House.

Jibrin, in the statement, gave details of how the process of screening the 2016 budget by the appropriation committee was hijacked by Dogara and a cabal within the House.

According to him, the relationship between him and Dogara turned sour long before the budget padding issue became public.

“I am compelled again for the purpose of emphasis to state categorically that my allegations are against the quartet of Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun, House Whip Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor, not the House as an institution nor other members of the body of principal officers.

“The other members of the body of principal officers were, to the best of my knowledge, completely excluded from decisions on the 2016 budget and the budget inputs inserted on their names were exclusively carried out by these quartet.

“I have to state this very clearly because these quartet have resorted to desperate moves to drag the entire House of Representatives into the case of gross abuse of office I have levelled against them as individual presiding and principal officers of the House. This is clearly a mischievous move to set me on collision with the entire house.

“Until yesterday, the police were laying siege to my house, blocking the entrance and exit and shouting that they want budget documents. They embarrassed my entire family with a nursing mother and a seven-month old baby that cried all night.

“The game plan was to arrest me and dump me in police net while a heavy media propaganda will be carried out to mislead the world that I have been sacked and police have picked me up as a culprit in 2016 budget. Whenever I am released, an irreparable damage would have been done to my person and that will stick for life. As God Almighty will have it, I had travelled out of town before they could execute their plan. God is always with the innocent.

“I, therefore, urge my honourable colleagues and the general public to call on Speaker Yakubu Dogara and the three other principal officers to stop their desperate attempt to drag the entire House of Representatives into this matter.

“They should also stop using the House spokesman, Honourable Namdas, to issue statements in respect to these allegations because it is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public into believing that they have the backing of the entire House on this matter.

“They should come out and defend themselves and prepare for the investigation that will be instituted by the House on this matter. At least, the minority leader and the chief whip have attempted some response which are at best lame.

“Let me make further revelations in addition to the ones I have already made which are in public glare.

“One: During the budget period, when they discovered that I was not the kind of a person they could use to perpetrate their illegality, Mr Speaker and the three other principal officers took away the entire Appropriation committee secretariat to a secret location where all sort of insertions were made into the budget.

“Again, the secretariat was taken away from me on Speaker Dogara’s instruction for the second time to a location I don’t know and all sort of insertions into the budgets were made and returned to me for signature. I said over my dead body. It was a massive crisis behind the scene until the early morning of the Friday that Mr President assented the budget. It was Senator Danjuma Goje that brokered a compromise that since the Deputy Speaker leads the harmonisation committee, he should also sign such that the harmonisation committee will share responsibility with us. Senator Goje pleaded with me so hard all night and later shouted heavily on me, reminding me that he is not talking to me as a Senator but as a father. I cried heavily all night.

“Two: When the budget harmonisation committee headed by Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun gave out 80 per cent concession across board to the executive demands during the harmonisation negotiation, it was agreed that the remaining 20 per cent should go to the entire NASS. The Deputy Speaker excused himself that he wanted to go and consult with Mr Speaker. He came back after few hours and presented to me a handwritten note distributing the remaining 20 per cent to only principal officers. Seventy per cent of the 20 per cent was reserved for Mr Speaker and himself while the remaining 30 per cent of the 20 per cent goes to other principal officers. I am sure he will recognise the handwriting when he sees it. My colleagues didn’t know all of these.

“Three: Mr Speaker also directed me to create what I advised him will be a controversial line item under service wide vote to introduce about N20 billion project using the name of NASS. He directed me to see a highly placed PDP politician which I did and collected the documents. I advised him repeatedly against it but he kept pressuring me until I bluntly told him I will not.

“Four: When the Appropriation committee received all the budget reports from standing committees, an analysis was conducted. We discovered that about 10 only out of the 96 standing committees of the House introduced about 2,000 projects without the knowledge of their committee members amounting to about N284 billion. I was alarmed. But I was cautious because at our pre-budget meeting with the committee chairmen, I was clearly warned not to touch their budgets. I reported the matter to the Speaker. He did nothing about it, obviously because he was working behind the scene with the committee chairmen. That was the beginning of the whole budget problem from the side of House and the whole exercise had to go through several versions before it was passed.

“People have asked why I waited this long to open up, so much was happening behind the scene. I fought the battle of my life to raise these issues internally and get Mr Speaker to address them to no avail. I pushed so hard that I got frustrated and depressed. All my attempts met brick walls. That was why some members were always raising their voice against me because they do not have the facts. I later on realised that the Speaker enjoyed that so much and colluded with his cabal to dump everything on me. I am sure not too long some members that knew what I went through will come out and testify. I also have evidence to show my internal struggles.

“In any case, under circumstances like this, and for young people like us that are lucky to have accelerated career growth, the system scares you from becoming a whistle blower. They will tell you that if you do such, nobody will trust you or have confidence in you again. They will scare you that it is not good for your image and it will affect your career progression. Many young people in different sectors are faced with such frustrating situation.

“Even at the moment, if I take to the advice of some people, I will get deeply scared and just keep quiet, so that I can grow career wise?  My usual response to them is that, isn’t that selfish? Your only luck will be if a trigger occurs then you open up. This is one such trigger. In any case, I would have opened up anyway. I have written so much about these issues and more on NASS. I posted over a month ago on my Facebook page that I will release the piece as part of my 40th birthday in September. Well, I never knew it will come much earlier.

“Some people are also saying I kept quiet while it was good and now I am talking because things have gone sour. Many members of the House and Nigerians will be shocked to know that there has never been good times between myself and Speaker Dogara. It took few weeks after his election as Speaker for me to realise I never really knew him well. I was hasty to judge him by his innocent looking personality. We practically disagree on everything.

“All these forced me to stay away from him except on official assignment. I can count how times I have been to his office or home. I stayed away completely. It was such a frustrating and depressing period for me. Who will I complain to? How do I face the world and say I got it wrong after playing such a lead role in his emergence? When you see a house you sacrificed everything to build is falling apart and the driver believes he is firmly in charge because he has eight votes advantage, you are left with no choice but to tie your seat belt for obvious eventuality.

“I must admit I made an error of judgment. I don’t know to whom and from where I will start apologising for not heeding to wise counsel. There is nothing I am saying now that I have not discussed or warned speaker Dogara on the few occasions that I sorted and got private audience with him. But he has been hijacked and has surrounded himself with a small cabal.

“All I am asking for is my right to be heard by my colleagues which they denied me. I am calling on my colleagues to plead with Speaker Dogara, Deputy Speaker Lasun, Whip Doguwa and Minority leader Ogor to stop obstructing justice and allow me my right to be heard by the House.

“It is the House that will institute a special investigation on this matter to allow me testify and provide evidence before any other external action,” he said.

The speaker, Dogara, on his Twitter handle on Thursday, while reacting to tweets on the issue, said Jibrin had “threatened the heavens will come down if he is removed and we thought to ourselves it will be fun watching it happen. We’re waiting for the heavens to come down first.That will be a lifetime experience.Until that happens, it’s all jokes.”

When contacted on phone, special adviser to the speaker on media and public affairs, Turaki Hassan, said they were not ready to join issues with Jibrin, adding that there was no comment on his allegations.

Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Honourable Abdulrasak Namdas, had, last week, said “most of the allegations made by Jibrin on the 2016 budget process and his opposition to immunity of presiding officers are non-issues and mre afterthought manufactured simply because the House relieved him of his position.”