House spokesman dismisses claims
Barely 24 hours after he was relieved of his appointment as chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumuni Jibrin has opened a can of worms, indicting some of the principal officers of the lower legislative chamber.
Yesterday, he claimed that Speaker Yakubu Dogara, his deputy, Mr. Sulaimon Yussuff Lasun, House Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor and the House Chief whip, Mr. Ado Doguwa selfishly allocated projects worth N60 billion to their constituencies.
Before the Speaker announced his sack on Wednesday, Jibrin had become unpopular among his colleagues, as he was accused of voting some N4 billion in the 2016 appropriation for projects in his constituency alone. Also, members verbally assaulted him with shouts of Ole! (Thief) when the House debated the immunity clause for the leadership of the National Assembly.
In a statement yesterday, Jibrin demanded the immediate resignation of the principal officers on the basis that they lacked the moral rectitude to remain in office.He maintained that he decided to resign to free himself of mischief and consistent blackmail against his person on the issue. Apparently piqued by the circumstances surrounding his removal, he said: “ Mr. Speaker, this issue will never be swept under the carpet. We are closing for recess with it and we shall commence the next session with this issue. This was the last option they have after every attempt to find something to nail me failed. I am a very blunt person by nature. I don’t know how to pretend. I don’t do eye service, neither will I ever be a sycophant. I don’t give returns. I just do my job dedicatedly.
“My offence was asserting my independence and insisting we do the right thing at all times and expose corrupt people in the House. Lately, I openly disagree with some principal officers on the issue of immunity and budget issues. I still maintain that I will never support immunity. I strongly believe with every conviction that in cleaning up the budget system and considering what transpired during 2016 budget which I have all the facts documented, Speaker Dogara, Deputy Speaker Lasun, Whip Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor should resign.
“These members of the body of principal officers were not comfortable with my independent disposition and my refusal to cover up their unilateral decision to allocate to themselves N40 billion naira out of the N100 billion allocated to the entire National Assembly.
“The four of them met and took that decision. In addition to billions of wasteful projects running over N20billion they allocated to their constituencies. They must come out clean. My inability to admit into the budget almost N30 billion personal requests from Mr. Speaker and the three other principal officers also became an issue. I wish I could but where will I get such money in a tight budget year like this? I have every documented evidence to this effect.”
Reacting to the allegations, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, yesterday described the claims as a calculated attempt to undermine the Dogara-led leadership of the House.
He explained that “most of the allegations on the 2016 budget process and his opposition to immunity of presiding officers are non-issues and mere afterthought manufactured simply because the House relieved him of his position.
“If he had all these ‘facts’ before, why didn’t he make them public? Why is he doing that now?“Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, like any other member of the House, knows that there are conventions and precedents as it relates to budgets and projects for principal officers of the National Assembly. Why is he making it an issue now? In any case, he is entitled to his opinion as a Nigerian and as a legislator while acting within the laws of Nigeria and rules of the House. ”
“We must make it abundantly clear that he was not removed because of his support or otherwise on immunity bill. Afterall, he is not the only one who opposed the bill.“The bill is still pending before the committee on review of the constitution and it has to be voted upon by each and every member of the House, get Senate concurrence, endorsed by two-third of the 36 State Houses of Assembly and be assented to by the President. It is a cheap blackmail on the part of Hon. Jibrin to even insinuate that he was removed because he opposed immunity bill.
“He should not distract the House from giving legislative support on important issues facing the government and concerning the revival of the economy, insecurity in the country, pursuit of anti-corruption measures, poverty alleviation, infrastructure development, etc.“The Nigerian people are simply not ready to waste their time on personal issues and personal egos of our leaders. We should face the urgent tasks before us for which we were elected,” he added.
Shedding light on how he stepped on the toes of the Speaker, Jibrin claimed: “After the submission of the first version of the budget which was returned by Mr. President, I briefed members in executive session and told them as agreed at our pre-budget meeting with chairmen and deputy chairmen of standing committees. We simply adopted their reports with little amendments. No body faulted my submission. “Members insisted they must know how the N100 billion was allocated. I told them the truth. Since after that meeting, Mr Speaker with the suport of the three other principal officers effectively blocked me from briefing members.”ensured I was not at the last executive session and refused to investigate issues I raised that I believe must be addressed if we intend to build a better budget system for the House.
“I gave Mr. Speaker statistics of 2000 new projects introduced into the budget by less than 10 committee chairmen without the knowledge of their committee members. He did nothing about it because he was part of the mess yet he is talking about improving the budget system. I did nothing wrong. I worked within the rules of the House and instructions of Mr. Speaker.”