Budget padding: Jibrin opens can of worms in House of Reps

•Alleges Dogara, 3 principal officers allocated N40bn to themselves out of N100bn NASS budget •If he had all these ‘facts’ before, why didn’t he make them public? Why is he doing that now? —House leadership

THE last has not been heard of the Wednesday removal of Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin as the chairman, House Committee on Appropriation.

The lawmaker has threatened to expose how the Speaker, Honourable Yakubu Dogara; Deputy Speaker, Honourable Yusuf Lasun; minority leader, Honourable Leo Ogor and the House whip, Honourable Ado Doguwa, tried to influence him when he held sway as the appropriation chairman.

He also called on the four principal officers of the House to resign from their exalted offices.

In a statement he issued in Abuja, he 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, Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa and Ogor should resign.”

According to him, “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 officers, 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. After the submission of the first version of the budget which was returned by Mr President, I briefed members in executive session and I 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 2,000 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 (Danjuma) 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.”

“I am glad that I am finally free from his emotional blackmail of constantly trying to make me see my appointment as appropriation chairman as a favour.”

He promised to release more detailed statement in due course, adding that he intended to explore all avenues of the House to brief his colleagues and testify against Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa and 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,” he added.

Reacting to the allegations, chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Honourable Abdulrazak Namdas, said the allegation was baseless, adding that Honourable Jibrin was validly relieved of his duty as appropriation chairman.

“Our attention has been drawn to media statements made by the former chairman of House appropriation committee, Hon Abdulmumuni Jibrin, wherein he made wild allegations against the House of Representatives and its leaders.

“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 Honourable Jibrin as chairman of appropriation committee.

“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.

“If he had all these ‘facts’ before, why didn’t he make them public? Why is he doing that now?

“Honourable 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.

“Why is he making it an issue now? In any case, he is entitled to his opinion as a Nigerian and as a legislator while acting within the laws of Nigeria and rules of the House.

“We must make it abundantly clear that he was not removed because of his support or otherwise on immunity bill. Afterall, he is not the only one who opposed the bill.

“It is a cheap blackmail on the part of Honourable Jibrin to even insinuate that he was removed because he opposed immunity bill.

“He should not distract the House from giving legislative support on  important issues facing the government concerning the revival of the economy, insecurity in the country, pursuit of anti-corruption measures, poverty alleviation, infrastructural development etc,” the statement read.