Indications have emerged that the House of Representatives may begin the process of sanctioning its erstwhile Appropriation Committee chairman, Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin, as soon as it reconvenes from an 8-week recess on Tuesday.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the need to take disciplinary action against Jibrin over allegations of padding he leveled against Speaker Yakubu Dogara and other principal officers of the lower chamber, would top the legislators’ agenda immediately they resume.
Sources in the House disclosed that the allegations, which Jibrin raised just 24 hours after his sack as the chairman of the Appropriation Committee on July 20, would throw the House into confusion as different groups would be making various demands. The House has been on recess since the scandal broke out.
His corruption allegations had brought to question, some of the activities of the entire leadership of House.
Jibrin himself was alleged to have allocated projects worth N4.3 billion to his Kiru/Bebeji Federal Constituency of Kano State in the budget, a development that forced his colleagues in the House to demand for his sack in April, but Dogara reportedly shielded him until July 20.
He has submitted petitions to anti-corruption agencies and foreign embassies, calling for a probe, and has been asking Dogara and other principal officers to resign.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday yesterday, the spokesperson of the House, Abdulrazak Namdas, said they would wait until the House reconvened on Tuesday before taking a decision on the matter based on their rules.
“As a House we are guided by rules, so we’ll look at the rules and apply them accordingly. I can assure Nigerians that whatever we’ll do on this matter, we’ll follow our rules,” he said.
Earlier in July, Namdas said the House would conduct an internal probe into the 8-month tenure of Jibrin to establish all the allegations leveled against him by members and some government agencies.
The spokesperson also said the House would refer Jibrin to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over his handling of the 2016 budget and his stewardship as chairman of Finance Committee during the 7th Assembly.
It was also gathered that members of the Transparency Group in the House would demand that all the officers Jibrin had accused submit themselves for investigations to anti-corruption agencies before they would be allowed to retain their positions.
The group, which was formed in the wake of the budget padding allegations that rocked the House, said the entire leadership of the lower chamber must get a clean bill of health from the agencies if they wanted to be accepted as leaders.
Jibrin had accused Dogara, his deputy, Yussuf Suleiman Lasun; Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa, and Minority Leader Leo Ogor, of perpetrating monumental corruption in the 2016 budget by allegedly attempting to compel him to include projects worth about N40 billion for them in the budget. The quartet has since denied any wrongdoing in the budget.
The Transparency Group disclosed its new position on the matter, just as the members of the Green Chamber were preparing to reconvene on Tuesday after an 8-week recess.
Jibrin had written petitions to the EFCC, ICPC, Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, among other agencies, asking for the probe of the principal officers.
But Dogara had said he was not going to resign on account of the allegations, as according to him, “padding is not a crime.”
Speaking to our reporter yesterday, the spokesperson of the Transparency Group, Mohammed Musa Soba (APC, Kaduna), said the speaker and all the others mentioned in the petitions must clear their names.
“They must submit themselves to the anti-corruption agencies for proper investigation so that they’ll come out clean. Any accused person has to clear himself,” he said.
Asked if they would be asking Dogara to resign, Soba said: “It’s only those that are patriotic enough that can resign, but what we’re demanding as a matter of right is that they must submit themselves to the anti-corruption agencies for investigation, if not, there’s no way they can lead anybody in that chamber.
“That’s our position and we won’t relent in our efforts until we see that the right thing is done. As we reconvene on Tuesday, we’ll continue with our efforts,” he added.
Jibrin faces suspension
Although he was the first to accuse the House leadership of impropriety, two groups, the Transparency Group and the Integrity Group, later joined in calling for investigations. While the Transparency Group demanded an external probe into the matter, the Integrity Group said such investigation must include all the 10 principal officers of the House.
It was gathered that when the lawmakers reconvene Tuesday, Jibrin’s fate would be hanging in the balance “because some members are angry with him and will call for his outright suspension,” a lawmaker told Daily Trust on Sunday.
“On resumption, I can assure you that Abdulmumin will be suspended, and it’s going to be a unanimous decision. I’m not sure he’ll come back to the House because the suspension will be renewed up to the end of his tenure. People feel that even if Buhari is fighting corruption, it’s a clean man that should spearhead that,” the lawmaker said.
Jibrin had on August 11, rushed to an Abuja High Court, seeking an order to compel the leadership of the House not to suspend him.
In the suit: No. FHC/ABJ/CS/539, Jibrin joined Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa, Ogor, the House of Representatives, Clerk to the House, the FCT police commissioner, and 10 others as defendants.
In an affidavit deposed in the court, Jibrin said if the respondents/defendants “are not immediately restrained, he would be suspended as a member of the House and this will greatly prejudice him and thousands of his constituents who rely on him to afford them their due representation in the federal legislature.”
In the said affidavit, the sacked Appropriation Committee chairman said he was aware that the lawmakers held meetings where they agreed to suspend him.
“He will definitely face disciplinary action. He may go to Ethics and Privileges Committee,” said another source.
The Ethics and Privileges Committee, headed by Rep Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), is a standing panel of the House that deals with misconducts by individual lawmakers and recommends the appropriate action to be carried out on any erring member.
Already, the EFCC has been reported to have launched probe into some of the projects allocated to Jibrin’s Kiru/Bebeji Federal Constituency of Kano State in the 2014 and 2015 budgets.
Daily Trust on Sunday last month reported that operatives of the EFCC had commenced investigation into how the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons allegedly awarded 10 contracts to companies in one day, allegedly aided by Jibrin as the chairman of Finance Committee in the 7th Assembly under the 2014 budget.
The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), rising from a meeting in August, barred both Jibrin and Dogara from making further comments in public on the allegations. Both parties, however, have since defied the directive.
A lawmaker told our reporter that: “All members now know he’s going to talk about their own allowance. They feel that he’s going to dress them down. What he’s claiming is that our allowances should be reduced, but members won’t accept that. He’s going to mess everybody up, so members may not support him.
“Those supporting the speaker are not doing that because of him. They are doing that because of the individual battle involved. We heard that the EFCC is investigating the 2016 budget, so there’s no point supporting him.”
Dogara must resign – Jibrin
When contacted about his possible suspension, Jibrin promised to get back to our correspondent, but he never did up to the time of filing this report.
But in a letter he wrote to his colleagues and emailed to Daily Trust on Sunday, the lawmaker insisted that Dogara and the other principal officers must give way for a holistic probe.
“There are even more grounds for prosecution when such bill becomes an act. In the case of 2016 budget, Speaker Dogara, the 3 other principal officers used appropriation powers to commit fraud. The most patriotic thing we must all do is to insist that Speaker Dogara and the 3 other principal officers step down from their offices and hand themselves over to the anti-graft agencies for prosecution,” he said.
In the said letter, Jibrin also recommended seven steps that the House must take to clean its image after the scandal:
1. The House should direct Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun, Whip Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor to step down immediately to allow for a free and fair investigation without interference as they cannot be judges in their own matters.
2. To nominate a speaker pro tempore to take over as presiding officer with immediate effect.
3. The speaker pro tempore should constitute an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations in collaboration with the ongoing external investigation by the anti-graft agencies.
4. To discuss with the executive arm, and in the spirit of justice, fairness and equity, to return the N100billion constituency project component of the budget under any of our laws, so that all stolen money can be returned, particularly the N40billion, and equitably distributed to all constituencies. This is possible, especially that the 2016 budget will run until May 2017.
5. I am offering to identify all the fraudulent insertions by Speaker Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa, Ogor and others, running into billions of naira in the budget, so that they can be removed… This will salvage the image of the House and reduce the financial pressure on the budget in the face of the current revenue challenges.
6. Immediate implementation of internal reform of the activities of the House to include management of our finances, budget process, transparency and implementation of e-parliament, among others.
7. In the face of an ongoing litigation, the House should revisit the House rules immediately and remove all draconian clauses.
We won’t waste time discussing Jibrin – Doguwa
Meanwhile, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa has said that the House would not waste time to discuss the issue of Abdulmumin Jibrin. He called on all members to disregard the former chairman of Appropriation Committee.
“For me, it is high time Nigerians, and indeed, the press disregarded any statement from Abdulmumin Jibrin. He has realised that he is fighting a lost battle.
“We have succeeded in consolidating our support base in the House, with over 300 respected members willingly signing the vote of confidence for the leadership. When we resume on, Tuesday the House will not even waste valuable time discussing Jibrin’s issue. We would rather continue with more important legislative issues that would impact positively on our economy and the people we represent.
“On behalf of the leadership of the House, I wish to call on all our well-meaning members to disregard the so-called letters sent to them by Jibrin. Members must remain focused and never allow themselves to get distracted,” Doguwa said.
Dogara to face pressure
It was learnt that Dogara would come under intense pressure by some members of the House, particularly from members of the Transparency and Integrity groups to vacate his seat in view of the allegations.
Dogara has since vowed never to resign on account of the allegations by Jibrin, as he maintained that budget padding did not constitute a crime.
A member of the group, who did not want to be named, told our correspondent that they would not relent in their effort to see that justice is done.
“We’ll press home our demands. We won’t allow ourselves to be cheated and keep quiet. We were all elected on equal basis, so there’s no reason why someone will sit as a principal officer to shortchange other members,” the lawmaker said.
A top member of the Transparency Group told Daily Trust on Sunday that they were yet to resolve on the specific action to be taken when they reconvene, but said the group would meet today (Sunday) to decide ahead of the Tuesday resumption.
It was gathered that even if some lawmakers make serious case for Dogara’s resignation, they would not succeed as the speaker is said to have the backing of majority of members of the House.
A lawmaker told our reporter that Dogara’s removal or resignation at this time was impossible, saying: “I don’t see the man resigning, and you know they can’t get the numbers, which is at least 240 members, to remove him.”
But another member told our reporter that even if some members want to demand for Dogara’s resignation, nobody would give them the opportunity to do so.
“They have to be given the opportunity to talk first, but who will give that opportunity?” he said.
On the action to be taken against Jibrin, the lawmaker, who did not want to be named, said, “There’s a procedure. We can’t just decide if it doesn’t come as a motion, but I believe someone may bring the matter up.
“We can decide to disappoint Nigerians. The matter may not come up on the floor on Tuesday. It depends on the mood of the leadership. The Integrity Group may decide to bring up the matter. But it all depends on what happens, although the group is losing steam. Because Nigerians want controversy, we may decide to ignore it.”
Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/reps-decide-jibrin-s-fate-tuesday/162889.html#CvZrQaYgc9tAIGeC.99