…Says 2016 budget padding, worst in six years
By Chinelo Obogo and Job Osazuwa
ABDULMUMIN Jibrin, former House chairman of Appropriation has sensationally revealed that the House of Representatives of which he is a member is corrupt.
Jibrin, who spoke on a live telecast on Channels TV yesterday, when asked if former President Olusegun Obasanjo was right in saying the National Assembly was corrupt, said: “Yes, we’re corrupt.”
Jubrin had accused Speaker Yakubu Dogara, his deputy, Yusuf Lasun, House Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, of padding the 2016 Appropriation Bill with up to N40 billion.
Speaking yesterday, Jibrin said: “There is corruption in the House of Representatives, and not only is there corruption, there is institutional corruption. These are things that I can prove and it is what my struggle is about. Obasanjo is not completely wrong in saying that lawmakers are corrupt; the only thing is that we keep living in denial. I have been part of that system and I know that there is corruption in the system. There is also institutional corruption. I have been there for five years and I have seen a lot and I am so happy that something has triggered it. We want to take advantage of this trigger to address the issues at the National Assembly to force reforms. People are looking at it from a narrow perspective, but it is a bigger problem. This issue is going to lead to a revolution in the National Assembly. There are lot of issues that needs to be dealt with. The issue of corruption needs to be dealt with. The issues regarding the conduct of members would also be dealt with.”
He said statistics was needed to ascertain the exact figures inserted into the budget.
“The amount inserted was about N284 billion. Technically, it was a movement of money here and there in the budget. For five years, working on budgets as chairman Finance, I have never seen this kind of situation. I didn’t know there was some kind of recklessness in the past, but not as bad as this. I saw some kind of insertions into the budget in years past, but in 2016, the insertions completely went off the board.
“Even though the law allows it, personally, I believe that the insertions were too much. It is also very important that the constitution gives us the power to appropriate and insert, but the intention of the constitution is not for you to make senseless insertions. These are the issues that I fought internally. There were a lot of senseless insertions. The fact that we are talking about our own side does not mean there were no problems from the executive. There were issues with the budget team at the budget office and those issues are still there. There were so many tussles between the ministry of finance and the budget office.
“My problem was that I was not talking. I came to the National Assembly and I was made to believe that when one is chairman of finance, you have to live and die with certain information. Also, if you a chairman of Appropriation, you have to be a custodian of information, meaning there are a lot of things you must not say. I actually lived with that kind of mentality for the past five years in House.
“Between when the committees brought in the reports and when the first version of the budget went to the president, so much happened. My colleagues were asking me, but I could not tell them that Speaker tried to insert project worth N30 billion and that he was conspiring with the deputy speaker, Leo Ogor and the rest to hijack the entire process and allocate to themselves projects worth over N20 billion of wasteful project.”
Jibrin said after complaining to Speaker that he was uncomfortable with the number of insertions, they opened up discussions with some persons.
“It was in-between that we saw the president and the speaker took an offence for the reason best known to him,” Jibrin said.
Meanwhile, Jibrin made good his threat to continue exposing the corrupt act of Dogara and other corrupt members of the House of Representatives as he, yesterday, released pictures of guest houses, which he claimed belong to the speaker.
The guest house is reportedly located at Vistula Close, along Panama Crescent, Maitama, Abuja. He had alleged that Dogara looted funds meant for legislative duties to furnish his guest houses and other apartments being personally used by him.
Wading into the scam, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has told the Speaker and other principal officers fingered in the alleged budget scandal to step aside pending the outcome of investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other agencies.
The letter dated 29 July 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said “following confirmation received by SERAP from the EFCC that it has taken up and looking into SERAP’s petition to the body on the allegations that the leadership of the House of Representatives padded the 2016 budget to the tune of N481 billion, SERAP is now writing to request you to immediately step aside from your position as Speaker of the House of Representatives pending the out outcome of the investigation.”
SERAP also urged Dogara to ensure other principal officers suspected to be involved in the alleged padding step aside from their positions to allow for the investigation by the EFCC and other agencies to go ahead unhindered.
This is even as two human rights lawyers, Femi Falana and Kayode Ajulo, closed over the issue. While Falana wants the Police and anti-graft agencies to step in and investigate the matter, Ajulo called on House members to remove principal officers indicted in the scandal.
Ajulo said: “There is nothing called budget padding. Nothing should be a crime when it is not a crime. There is nothing done that has constituted any criminal offence. Budget is an estimate. The executive sends it and the parliament has the power to remove or add something.
“When a budget is passed, the executive can therefore decide on projects of priorities. Budget is just a proposal. What we should be looking at is whether the issue is moral or not. It is about public trust. Even if there is budget padding, it is not a crime. EFCC should find a better job to do.
“There is no need to call for their resignation. Members have the duty to remove them. In Nigeria, people do not resign their positions. Other members should remove those indicted if they feel they were not part of it. Unless they were part of it.”
But, a member of the House of Representatives, who doubles as a member of the House Appropriation Committee, Joseph Edionwele, has strongly defended the Speaker, accusing those calling for his probe as jokers.
Edionwele said there was nothing wrong in inserting projects that will benefit the people into the budget. He said Jibrin was only creating an avenue for those who lost out in the speakership tussle to stage a comeback.