The House of Representatives said on Tuesday that it would investigate the budget-padding allegations its former Chairman, Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, levelled against the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and three other principal officers.
The other three officers are the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yusuff Lasun; the Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor.
Jibrin had alleged that the four requested the inclusion of N40bn projects in the 2016 budget.
He claimed that his refusal to oblige the four principal officers and his opposition to several financial infractions were responsible for his removal by Dogara on Wednesday, last week.
The House said Jibrin’s allegations would be referred to the Committee on Ethics/Privileges for investigation after the House would have reconvened on September 13 from the current annual recess.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, told a news conference in Abuja that Jibrin would be accorded fair hearing by the committee to defend his allegations against the four principal officers.
Namdas also said the leadership of the House had decided to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other anti-graft agencies to look into the matter, including allegations that Jibrin himself abused his office between 2011 and 2015 when he was the Chairman, Committee on Finance.
He stated, “He was alleged to have aided the use of front companies that collected funds without executing most of the projects.
“The projects have been compiled and will be referred to the anti-graft agencies to establish why the projects were fully paid for and not executed. Who collected the funds and why has Jibrin not raised the alarm about the non-execution of the projects even now?”
Concerning Jibrin’s removal, Namdas alleged that the lawmaker displayed acts of “misconduct” and “incompetence” in his handling of the 2016 budget, a development that forced members to demand his removal.
He said members were in shock when Jibrin turned round to start making allegations against the speaker instead of quietly accepting his fate.
Namdas added, “Mr. Speaker’s input to the 2016 budget was signed and delivered to him (Jibrin). If he has honour, let him release the signed inputs of Mr. Speaker and not pieces of paper that bear no acknowledged authorship.
“Our counsel to Abdulmumin (Jibrin) 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 sacking.”
Citing an instance when Jibrin reportedly brought the name of the National Assezzmbly to disrepute, Namdas alleged that he first inflated the budget by N250bn without the knowledge of either the Senate or the House.
According to Namdas, members became alarmed when the former chairman also blackmailed President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said, “One clear example is the insertion of funds for the so-called Muhammadu Buhari Film Village in his constituency in Kano State without the consent or solicitation of Mr. President. This has brought both Mr. President and the government to disrepute.
“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.
“One of such is the numerous projects he claimed in an interview in April 2016, to have sited in Mr. President’s home town of Daura, Katsina State, without Mr. President’s solicitation or knowledge, in a desperate attempt to blackmail Mr. President as an answer and justification for allocation of N4.1bn to his constituency.
“He did not stop there. Abdulmumin (Jibrin) went about soliciting members to nominate projects for him to help them include in the budget. When called upon to defend his actions as appropriation’s chairman, all he did was to be calling names of those members and the amount he helped included for them in the budget in an unsuccessful bid to silence them.
“To attempt to drag the name of Mr. President, honourable members and others to his new low through sundry acts of blackmail was one of the matters the House leadership found off limits and totally unacceptable.”
The House blamed the protracted budget row between the National Assembly and the Presidency on Jibrin’s conduct.
Speaking specifically on padding, Namdas said those who used the term did not understand that the power of appropriation resided in the National Assembly.
He noted that the 1999 Constitution in Section 81 (1) appropriately captured the President’s budget proposals as “estimates.”
He explained that this implied that the National Assembly was empowered to either add or reduce the estimates.
Namdas explained further, “Consequently, it is therefore an exhibition of crass ignorance, abuse of language, outright mischief and/or blackmail for a legislator, especially one who chaired the appropriation committee, to use the word padding to describe the action of parliament on the budget.
“The removal, introduction of projects or the amendment to Mr. President’s estimates in the Appropriation Bill cannot and should never be construed as an act of corruption or impropriety because it is at the core of the appropriation powers of the National Assembly as aptly enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Reacting to the position of the House, Jibrin said his allegations were not addressed.
Jibrin stated, “Why did you take the decision to fraudulently short-change the House by taking away N40bn out of the N100bn allocated to constituency projects and distributing same to yourself and others without the approval of the House?
“Why did you approach the former House appropriation chairman with written personal requests and list of about N30bn projects to be inserted into the 2016 budget and his inability to get that done caused a major rift between you all and him?
“Why did you ignore his complaint to you that just about 10 standing committees of the House inserted over 2,000 projects worth 284bn?”