|•Executive, not Senate, padded budget, Senate spokesman insists •APC govs wade in|
SPEAKER of House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara has alleged that the former chairman of Appropriations Committee, Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin, was removed for incompetence, abuse of budgetary process, serial betrayal and “proclivity to blackmail.”
At a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, the House spokesperson, Honourable Abdulrazak Namdas, said Jibrin had to go because his “highhandedness” could no longer be tolerated.
In the full press statement, Jibrin was accused of sundry acts of misconduct, incompetence, immaturity, total disregard for his colleagues and abuse of the budgetary process, among others.
The statement said “one of the fundamental reasons why the House leadership removed him is that he was found not to be fit and proper person to hold such a sensitive office which exposes him to high officials of government at all levels.
“Furthermore, in the course of the performance of his duties as chairman of Appropriations committee, it became evident that he does not possess the temperament and maturity required for such a high office.
“He was in the habit of collating, warehousing and manipulating sensitive information to blackmail people sometimes apparently for pecuniary purposes. And by virtue of his position as Appropriations chairman, he usually met with very high and senior public officers at all levels.
“The Speaker and the leadership were inundated with complaints by heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) over harassment from the House Appropriations chairman to engage in conduct and acts unbecoming of their offices.
“The leadership launched an internal investigation into these allegations and was largely satisfied that action had to be taken to remove him, in the interest of the integrity of the House.
“Again, it was found out that he was fond of inserting projects into prominent persons’ constituencies without their knowledge to curry favour and possibly use it as a means of blackmail against them when necessary.”
Explaining the projects in the budget, Namdas said “zonal/constituency intervention projects have their origins in constitutional provisions as encapsulated in the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy requiring the government to ensure equitable distribution of resources and infrastructure.
“The idea of zonal/constituency intervention projects arose as a result of the need to carry every part of the country along in allocation of projects in the budget, and to address the imbalance in line with federal character principles as enshrined in the constitution.
“The entire annual budget estimates, once presented by Mr President, is referred to the Appropriations committee for further legislative input and scrutiny at the conclusion of the second reading.
“While it is prerogative of National Assembly members to decide the projects and their locations, it is the prerogative of the relevant MDAs to choose the contractors, award the projects and to execute.
“For emphasis, the general impression that monies are given to members of the National Assembly to execute projects is incorrect and unfounded.”Meanwhile, the two factions in the House of Representatives in the budget padding scandal are now threatening themselves with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The key players want the EFCC to probe individual activities of one another in the sixth and seventh Assembly.
Jibrin, had, in a statement on Monday, said all he had revealed so far “is a child’s play compared to the mess and allegations of money laundering Speaker Dogara allegedly left behind as chairman, House Services in both the sixth and seventh Assembly. The EFCC should have something to start working with in respect to his tenure as chairman, House services, if it properly dusts its files.
“I am, therefore, once again calling on colleagues and well meaning Nigerians to prevail on Speaker Dogara and his three other cohorts to put the interest of country first and allow the House to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations levelled against them.
“This is just the tip of an ice bag. I will make further revelations in due course.”
On its part, the leadership of the House said it was also in receipt of complaints about Jibrin’s activities as chairman of Finance Committee in the seventh Assembly, which had potentials to embarrass the House.
The House leadership, at a press briefing in Abuja by Honourable Namdas, alleged that investigations found that from 2011 to 2015, Hon Jibrin domiciled with Hadejia – Jama’are River Basin Authority and few other MDAs some of the allocations meant for his former committee members.
He was alleged to have aided the use of front companies that collected funds without executing most of the projects.
According to him, the projects had been compiled and would be referred to the anti-graft agencies to establish why they were fully paid for and not executed, who collected the funds and why Honourable Jibrin had not raised any alarm about the non-execution of the projects till now.
While challenging Jibrin to come clean on his allegation, the House spokesperson said “Mr Speaker’s inputs to the 2016 budget was signed and delivered to him. If he has honour, let him release the signed inputs of Mr Speaker and not pieces of paper that bears no acknowledged authorship.
“Our counsel to Honourable Abdulmumin is for him to be real as a man by bringing up credible, authentic and verifiable documents or stubborn facts which disclose the commission of crime on the part of any member or leader of the House. If he can’t, then let him go and sulk in secret over his sack.”
When asked about police invitation to those mentioned by Honourable Jibrin in the alleged budget padding, he said “police have not invited anybody. I don’t know if the police have invited him.”
My life under threat –Jibrin
The embattled former chairman of House appropriations committee, Jibrin, has raised the alarm that his life is under threat, following his recent allegations.
Consequently, he has written to the acting Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, requesting for police protection
Informed police sources disclosed to the Nigerian Tribune in Abuja, on Tuesday, that a team of lawyers, on Monday, stormed the IGP’s office with a request letter for their client’s protection.
They alleged that the life of their client was under serious threat, following his mention of names of members of the House involved in the padding of about N40 billion out of the N100 billion NASS budget.
It was gathered that a team of detective had spoken to Jibrin on the need to come to the police and make his statement, but it was reported that the lawmaker had only been sending his lawyers to the Force Headquarters.
The development, it was gathered, made detectives to lay siege at his residence and the National Assembly throughout last week.
Informed police sources told The Nigerian Tribune that they were waiting for Jibrin, while and investigative team had been raised on the issue.
Executive, not Senate, padded the budget, Senate spokesperson insists
Despite the revelations by the Jibrin on the involvement of principal officers of the National Assembly in budget padding, chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Dr Aliyu Abdullahi, on Tuesday, stoutly defended the Senate and absolved the upper chamber of allegations of padding the 2016 national budget.
Rather, the senator representing Niger North in the eighth assembly said the executive arm of government and not the legislative arm was responsible for the budget padding.
The seemingly dead issue of budget padding issue recently became issue of public discourse, following the sack of Jibrin last week
However, while reacting to his sack, Jibrin had accused the house’ leadership of unilaterally infusing about N40 billion into the budget and said Senator Danjuma Goje had pressurised him into accepting the alterations of the Speaker Dogara-led House, when he protested the infusion.
But the Senate spokesperson, who was speaking on Tuesday at the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) 2016 Summit of Professionals, said the Senate was not involved in the budget padding.
“On the issue of padding, I want to say this. I took an oath as a veterinary doctor and I never forget that oath. As a senator, I took an oath and I never forget that oath. What is padding? Simply, it is when you put something in the budget without clearly defining what that is meant for in terms of implementation.
“The executive were the ones who padded the budget. When you look at the original document that came, they had something like, ‘New Item Requesting’. Is that a project head? We do not even understand it. And it is in health. That is padding and it was from the executive. In the National Assembly, when you look at the power to make appropriations, what we have is inputs or insertions, and that is not padding,” he said.
He blamed the Ministry of Health for millions of Naira being spent by Nigerians on medical tourism abroad, saying the ministry was doing nothing to halt medical tourism.
APC govs wade in
Governors elected under the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Tuesday, met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, resolving to wade into the crisis in the leadership of the National Assembly to, according to them, ensure a vibrant legislature.
Chairman of APC Governors Forum and governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, who spoke with State House correspondents after the meeting, said the aim of the meeting was to tell the president that the governors were behind him on the war against corruption and insurgency.
“We are concerned about the incessant happenings in the National Assembly and we have taken it upon ourselves to look into the matter.
“We are going to look into the matter because we need a strong, vibrant National Assembly to make things move fast in the country,” he said.
On the economic situation in the states, the governor observed that things were now better for the states as they had started to receive more funds from federal allocation.
According to Okorocha, “there is a lot of improvement. What the states are getting now is close to what they use to get when oil price was above $100.
“This means this government is doing a lot. We are not yet there but we are getting there. We appeal to Nigerians to be patient with this government because it means well about the welfare of our people.”
On the criticism trailing the governors’ planned trip to Germany, he argued that the trip was important as it would expose them to how things were done elsewhere.
“There is nothing like jamboree trip. We are going to Germany because we cannot do everything here without exchanging ideas.
“Everything you do in your home, your business, you share ideas,” he said.