There are strong indications that moves by the All Progressives Congress to resolve the crisis in the House of Representatives over budget padding have failed.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that a former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, was insisting on investigations of the petitions he submitted to security agencies.
The party, it was learnt, after the meeting it held with Jibrin on Tuesday, had been appealing to the lawmaker to withdraw his petitions so that the crisis could be handled as “a family affair.”
It was, however, gathered that while the former chairman of the appropriation committee had yielded to the party’s request not to discuss the issue in the media, he had not agreed to withdraw his petitions.
The APC, in a letter to the former appropriation committee on Thursday, directed the lawmaker to stop “transmitting an opinion on the matter to the public” adding that it was, “looking into it towards finding possible solution.”
But a chieftain of the party, who confided in SUNDAY PUNCH, said Jibrin told party leaders that since the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, said padding was not a crime, security agents should be allowed to do their job by investigating the matter.
The APC National Working Committee member stated, “We are still trying to resolve the issue amicably. We have not been able to find an internal solution to the problem. Jibrin is insisting on pursuing the case.”
No going back — Jibrin
Jibrin had since Thursday stopped commenting on the allegation in the media after receiving a letter from the party leaders.
He neither picked calls made by one of our correspondents to his mobile telephone nor replied to enquiries sent through text messages.
But the lawmaker, via his Twitter handle early on Saturday made a veiled reference to a statement by Dogara on Friday that padding was not an offence.
He said that there was no going back on the crusade against budget padding in the House.
“I am carefully observing things with sealed lips while others are talking. I am with Nigerians and there is no going back on this crusade!!!”
I’ve no case to answer — Dogara
But, when contacted on Saturday, Dogara’s office said he had given his stance on the budget crisis and would stand by it.
His Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, referred SUNDAY PUNCH to an interview the speaker granted State House correspondents in Abuja on Friday shortly after Dogara met briefly with President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said, “Yes, he has already talked. I do not need to say anything again.”
When asked whether Dogara stood by his position of Friday, the media aide replied, “Yes.”
The crisis is beyond our party now — Chief Whip
The Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, said while the intervention of the All Progressives Congress was appreciated, the matter was strictly not a political party’s case, but about the integrity of the legislature.
Ado-Doguwa, who is one of the four principal officers accused by Jibrin, explained, “Of course, we would have always loved to respect any intervention by our great party (APC).
“But, the problem we have at hand is unfortunately not a political party’s case. It is not about Speaker Dogara; it is not also about Honourable Lasun or my humble self as the Chief Whip of the House, either. This matter is critically fundamental as it relates to the institutional integrity of the House of Representatives and National Assembly at large. You must therefore, understand that it is not purely an APC business.
“We would certainly have our hands tied in the event where the APC comes up with any so-called ‘political solutions’ that may contravene our institutional legislative codes.
DSS still guards appropriation office
At the National Assembly, the secretariat of the Appropriation Committee was still guarded by operatives of the Department of State Services.
The operatives have laid siege to the office in the last seven days.
They moved in soon after Jibrin submitted his petitions to the EFCC and also visited the DSS’ headquarters in Abuja.
Police to send fresh invitations, as Dogara, Jibrin fail to appear
It was learnt that both Dogara and Jibrin did not honour the invitation to appear before the police team investigating the allegations on Friday.
SUNDAY PUNCH gathered that the police would send fresh invitations to them this week.
It was learnt that the refusal of Dogara to honour the invitations by the Special Investigation Panel, was informed by the political solution being worked out to terminate the probe.
A senior police officer, who is familiar with the ongoing investigation into the budget padding saga, said the police would continue with the probe regardless of the political solution being adopted by the APC.
The senior officer said it would be unfortunate if Nigerians allowed the allegations against the House leadership to be swept under the carpet.
Efforts to get the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; and the National Secretary of the party, Mai Bala Buni, on Saturday to know the extent the party had gone in resolving the matter failed.
Their mobile phone lines indicated that they were switched off most of the day, while text messages sent to them to make the enquiry were not replied as of the time of filing this report.
Several national executive of the party contacted on Saturday also declined to speak on the matter.
Matter not a family affairs, say groups
But security experts and civil rights groups advised the party to allow the police and the anti-graft agencies to do their jobs.
A security consultant, Lt.- Col. Sola Oremade (retd.), said the President would be encouraging corruption if he directed the police to stop their investigation into the scandal.
He noted that the President would not be part of the political solution, while chiding Dogara for running to Buhari for help, instead of appearing before investigators to clear himself.
Oremade said, “I don’t think the president would descend so low to stop it, I don’t think he would stop it (investigation). Dogara has no right to go to the president, he ought to go to the police, and the issue has nothing to do with the president. If the president makes the mistake of stopping it, then he is encouraging corruption and it’s wrong for Dogara to go to the president, it’s an indication that he has committed an offence.”
Also the Co-Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo Dare-Atoye, said the issue was beyond the APC.
He stated, “The business of governance is a serious one and totally beyond the internal mechanism of the APC. At this stage, we must presume the Speaker and all those mentioned as innocent until proven otherwise, but our lawmakers must not take an undue advantage of the gullibility of our political set-up to undermine public trust.”
Reps’ group demands speaker’s resignation
Three members of the Transparency Group in the House of Representatives have backed the call for Dogara’s resignation.
The lawmakers, Messrs Baballe Bashir, Agunsoye Oluwarotimi-Ojo and Abubakar Chika-Adamu in a statement on Saturday, insisted that Dogara indeed “padded” the budget and should resign to pave the way for unfettered investigations into the allegations.
The legislators, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of other members of the group, advised their colleagues against signing to pass a confidence vote on Dogara.
They, alleged, “While the entire zonal intervention for the three senatorial districts of Bauchi State and 12 federal constituencies in the state amounts to N1.6bn, the speaker criminally inserted about 200 per cent of the amount, totalling N3,079,000,000 to his constituency alone.
“The same Speaker Yakubu Dogara diverted 50 per cent of the total capital projects allocated to Bauchi State to the tune of N4,781,003,431 out of N9,231,289,842 allocated to the state to his constituency.”