•Supporters plan confidence vote in Speaker
•Others may push for investigation of budget padding claim
From Kemi Yesufu and Fred Itua, Abuja
Showdown is imminent between lawmakers loyal to Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and former chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumini Jibrin as the Lower Chamber resumes tomorrow.
Dogara’s loyalists have perfected plans to press for Jibrin’s suspension following the latter accusing the four principal officers of the House of fraud. He alleged that Dogara, his Deputy, Yussuf Lasun, Majority Whip, Alhassan Dogunda and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor took N40 billion out of the N100 billion allocated for constituency projects in the 2016 budget.
He also accused them of using 10 out of the 96 Standing Committees to insert 2,000 projects into the budget, totalling N284 billion. They denied it.
But yesterday, a lawmaker from the South-East who doesn’t want to be named, said those backing Dogara, some of who are seeking for as much as two-month suspension of Jibrin, have arranged for well-spoken lawmakers to raise a Matter of Privilege on the floor, arguing that the former committee chairman’s allegations of budget padding breached the House’ Powers and Privileges Act in relation to them.
Should the motion on breached privileges scale through, it will be referred to Ossai Nicholas Ossai-led Ethics and Privileges Committee for further legislative action, which could include the suspension of the embattled ex-chairman.
The source, however, said a few lawmakers have urged Dogara to ignore the frequent calls for Jibrin to be suspended as it could not only lead to chaotic scenes on the floor on Tuesday, but would result in negative media reports which will further dent the image of the House.
“I can tell you that many lawmakers are charged -up over Jibrin’s allegations and there will be a clash of interests, which could get physical when we resume. Emotions are high and those who will back the call, to suspend Jibrin are many, but people who want to defy the Speaker will also fight to frustrate any move to get him suspended with things really getting ugly and Nigerians won’t applaud us for this”, he said.
However, Jibrin was accused of singlehandedly allocating projects worth N4.1 billion to his Kiru/Bibeji federal constituency. This is even as he declared that he received N650 million as office running cost for the years he has worked as a legislator, just as all 10 of the principal officers have received N10 billion under the same sub-head.
Investigations by Daily Sun indicates that lawmakers backing Dogara, majority of who are miffed by the September 16 letter from Jibrin to members asking that they demand for the Speaker’s resignation tomorrow, spent a better part of the weekend cross-checking with colleagues who had earlier signed a register indicating intention to give the Speaker a vote-of-confidence, lobbying them to show support when the move to sanction the former chairman is made on the floor.
A lawmaker from a North-Central state and staunch supporter of the Speaker, who pleaded anonymity, said “there is no way Jibrin can escape being sanctioned.
“He has even irritated some lawmakers who were calling for peace with the letter he sent them, saying he wasn’t fighting the House but the Speaker and others. But in the same breadth, he is talking about the corruption in running costs and ridding the legislature of corruption, forgetting that it is members who make up the institution called the National Assembly.”
Also in a text sent to journalists, Doguwa stated that 300 members of the House were “willingly signing the vote of confidence roll for the House’s leadership.”
The lawmaker in the text, equally called on his colleagues to disregard recent claims made by Jibrin, maintaining that he (Jibrin) has already lost his moral conscience.
On his part, Jibrin, who petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Department of State Services (DSS), the Police and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, tried but failed to stop any move to suspend him. Recall that a Federal High Court in Abuja on August 16, declined to hear two cases he filed to stop the House from suspending him and to enforce his fundamental human rights.
Meanwhile, as lawmakers from both chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House resume, a key issue that will dominate proceedings in both chambers is the current economic recession.
The Senate in particular, may invite key managers of the economy and some ministers to brainstorm on a possible way out of the biting economic hardship in the country.
Also, the battle of wits between Dogara and Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State took a different dimension yesterday with Nigeria Civil Society Desk, a group of Abuja-based Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) accusing the governor of sponsoring recent protests against the Speaker.
Coordinator of the CSOs, Emeh Friday Eleojo, said they were aware that the governor has paid millions of naira to some CSOs to organise rallies across the country against the Speaker.
But in a swift reaction, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Abubakar on Media, Sabo Muhammad, dismissed the allegations as unfounded.
He described the allegations as “lies targeted as smearing the reputation,” of the governor.
Muhammad, in a telephone interview with Daily Sun stated that Abubakar whom he described as “prudent with the resources of Bauchi State and too busy with fulfilling his mandate to the people to be involved with protesters who he has never met”, did not give anyone money to write petitions against the Speaker.