Spokesman, Jibrin trade words
From Ndubuisi Orji and Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
Embattled former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, yesterday, engaged in war of words with some members of the House of Representatives over the raging budget padding scandal.
Interestingly, yesterday’s predicted drama at the Green Chamber over the budget scam failed to play out as the House adjourned after barely 14 minutes of plenary.
The adjournment was sequel to the death of the member of the House representing Ifako-Ijaiye Federal constituency of Lagos State, Adewale Elijah, who passed on during the last session.
The public had expected a showdown between members supporting Speaker Yakubu Dogara and those backing former chairman of the House committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
But, not only was Jibrin, who alleged that Dogara and four other principal officers took N40 billion out of the N100 billion allocated for constituency projects in the 2016 budget, conspicuously absent at plenary, the speaker, after officially informing members of the death of the Lagos lawmaker, called on House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila to move for adjournment.
Accosted by newsmen after plenary, on whether there was a plan by the House leadership to suspend the former chairman, Gbajabiamila said due process will be followed for the measures to be taken.
Pressed on if the actions to be taken will include suspending Jibrin, the lawmaker simply said, “members will decide his (Jibrin’s) fate”.
Though he stayed away from plenary, the embattled former chairman arrived his Room 105 office in the National Assembly complex flanked by two stern looking security personnel to address a press conference.
Jibrin, who didn’t give any explanation for his absence at plenary, vowed that should the House opt to deal with allegations of budget padding as an internal matter, he would ensure that the anti-graft agencies, which have been petitioned on the matter, will continue with and conclude their investigations.
The lawmaker, who said he will be working with a coalition of Civil Society Organisations |(CSO)s and “100 eminent Nigerians” to keep the budget padding scandal on the front-burner of public discuss, added that: “I’m not bothered if I’m suspended. I’m prepared for something more than that. Even if the House says it should be settled in family way, I will continue. Anybody who thinks this matter will be swept under the carpet is a joker.”
He further said Dogara met with the six zonal caucuses on Monday in Abuja to “beg” for their support to ensure that the allegations he raised are “swept under the carpet”.
Jibrin, who explained that he attended meeting of North-West Caucus further accused Dogara of using the yet to be supplied controversial official vehicles for lawmakers and office equipment “as what I consider to be a bribe” to get support from members of his caucus.
Jibrin also alleged that the speaker was “blackmailing” members “with something that is very important to every lawmaker” to get them to back an internal investigation of his allegations.
The lawmaker, while disclosing that he had joined the Transperancy Group which was formed after the budget scandal erupted, reiterated his call for the speaker to step-down for investigations within the House to be carried out.
He called for a Speaker-extempore to lead the House until internal investigations are concluded and said Dogara’s plea for the North-West Caucus to “forgive him” for the issues around the 2016 budget, and his explanation that it was the convention for principal officers to be allocated more constituency projects were largely rejected.
Jibrin added that members of his caucus have decided to remove House Majority Whip, Alhassan Doguwa as their leader.
But, in a swift response, some members of the North-West and North-East Caucus and chairman of House Committee on Media, Abdulrazak Namdas, at a press briefing, dismissed Jibrin’s account of the zonal caucuses meetings as untrue.
Namdas insisted the meetings were long held conventions of the House and added that the speaker didn’t beg for allegations of budget padding to be forgotten.
He also stressed that some members, including himself, had already been supplied with office equipment even as the House had long concluded to purchase new cars for members.
Namdas, who disclosed that 85 percent of lawmakers have signed up to pass a vote of confidence on the speaker, said members of the North-West Caucus had no plans of removing Doguwa as chairman as alleged by Jibrin.
“For him (Jibrin) to say that the meetings were done in bad light is untrue. It was conventional for members to meet at the level of caucuses to set an agenda before the House resumes,” the House spokesman said.
Also speaking at the media parley, a member of the North-West Caucus Munir Baba Dan-Agundir emphasised that majority of the caucus have appended their signatures on the list for a vote of confidence on Dogara.
“Twenty-one out of 24 of those of us in the Kano State Caucus have signed for a vote of confidence on the Speaker and the leadership of the House,” he said.
This is as a lawmaker from the North-East Caucus, Yunusa Abubakar said Dogara didn’t plead for support from his colleagues on the budget padding scandal.
“If there was anything he (Speaker) begged us for, it is for us to work towards bringing Nigeria out of economic recession as soon as possible,” Abubakar said.