The Budget 2016 padding scandal rocking the House of Representatives deepened yesterday, with the leadership asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the sacked Appropriation Committee chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin.
The probe, it said, should start from when he was chairman of the Finance Committee in the Seventh Assembly.
But, Jibrin dismissed his colleagues’ plan, urging Speaker Yakubu Dogara to clear himself of the allegations of budget padding.
Last week, Jibrin accused Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuff Lasun, Chief Whip Ado Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor of asking him to allocate to them N40 billion of the N100 billion allocation for members’ constituency projects.
Addressing reporters in Abuja yesterday, the Chairman, House Information Committee Abdulrazak Namdas said Jibrin would also be refered to the Ethics and Disciplinary Committee for investigation
He said given the workings of the budget process, the House cannot be accused of padding because there is nothing like that.
Namdas challenged Jibrin (APC, Kano) to show evidence of the complicity of Dogara and the other principal officers in the padding.
He, however, declined to take up issue with former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who accused the lawmakers of corruption.
Namdas said: “Section 4 empowers the National Assembly to make laws for the good governance of the federation while Section 59 confers on the Legislature final say on the budget.
“Section 80 (4) on the other hand, which confers on the legislature absolute power of control over public funds, states: “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly”.
“The word manner confers absolute legislative discretion.
“When, therefore, the National Assembly appropriates funds in the budget, it can never under any circumstances or guise be deemed or regarded as tinkering or padding.
“The legislature is therefore constitutionally incapable of padding the budget.
“What the Executive submits are mere estimates and proposal as stipulated in Section 81 (1).
“It is obvious that the Constitution uses the word Estimates advisedly. Consequently, it is therefore an exhibition of crass ignorance, abuse of language, outright mischief and or blackmail for a legislator especially one who chaired the Appropriations Committee to use the word PADDING to describe the action of parliament on the budget.
“The removal, introduction of projects or the amendment of Mr. President’s estimates in the Appropriation Bill cannot be construed as an Act of corruption or impropriety because it is at the core of appropriation powers of the National Assembly as aptly enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
“It is therefore clear, that no crime or wrong doing can be legitimately imputed on the actions or conduct of Mr. Speaker, the Leadership or Members of the House of Representatives before, during and after the passage of the 2016 Appropriation Bill”.
He said Jibrin was investigated by the House for gross misconduct as a result of complaints over his misuse of power by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) since his Chairmanship of Finance Committee in the 7th Assembly.
Namdas added: “Jibrin’s removal was based on sundry acts of misconduct, incompetence, total disregard for his colleagues and abuse of the budgetary process, among others.
“Immaturity and lack of capacity to handle the Office of Chairman, Appropriations:
“One of the fundamental reasons why the House Leadership removed him is that, he was found not to be fit and proper person to hold such a sensitive office which exposes him to high officials of government at all levels.
“Furthermore, in the course of the performance of his duties as Chairman of Appropriations Committee, it became evident that he does not possess the temperament and maturity required for such a high office.
“Tendency and proclivity to blackmail colleagues and high government officials and misuse and mishandle sensitive government information:
“He was in the habit of collating, warehousing and manipulating sensitive information to blackmail people sometimes apparently for pecuniary purposes. And by the virtue of his position as Appropriations Chairman, he meets with very high and senior public officers at all levels.
“The Speaker and the Leadership were inundated with complaints by heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) over harassment from the House Appropriations Chairman to engage in conduct and acts unbecoming of their offices.
“The Leadership lunched an internal investigation into these allegations and was largely satisfied that action had to be taken to remove him, in the interest of the integrity of the House.
“One clear example is the insertion of Funds for the so called Muhammadu Buhari Film Village in his Constituency in Kano State without the consent or solicitation of Mr. President. This has brought both Mr. President and the government to disrepute.
“Again, it was found out that he was fond of inserting projects into prominent persons’ constituencies without their knowledge to curry favour and possibly use it as a means of blackmail against them when necessary.
“One of such is the numerous projects he claimed in a Channels TV interview in April 2016, to have cited in Mr. President’s home town of Daura, Katsina State without Mr. President’s solicitation or knowledge, in a desperate attempt to blackmail Mr. President as an answer and justification for allocation of N4.1b to his constituency when confronted by the interviewer.
“He did not stop there. Hon Abdulmumin went about soliciting Honourable members to nominate projects for him to help them include in the Budget. When called upon to defend his actions as Appropriation’s Chairman, all he did was to be calling names of those members and the amount he helped include for them in the Budget in an unsuccessful bid to silence them.
“Most of the affected members took serious exceptions to his despicable antics and sundry acts of blackmail and protested to the Leadership to prevail on Hon Abdulmumin to expunge from the Budget what he claimed he allocated to them since they did not solicit for those projects”.
Jibrin was also accused of being responsible for the friction between the National Assembly and the executive over the 2016 budget through his incompetence, mismanagement of the process and hidden agenda.
“It was also discovered that the former Chairman, Appropriations, discreetly and clandestinely allocated monies for projects that are not clearly defined in the budget for the purposes of exploiting the ambiguities for personal gains.
“Furthermore, he was found to be responsible for some bogus allocations in the budget for projects that have no locations and were apparently never meant to be executed.
“Hon. Jibrin’s mishandling of the 2016 budget process nearly fractured the otherwise cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature and brought the National Assembly and the government to public ridicule.
“For reasons that were not noble and not in the Public Interest, Hon Abdulmumin had initially inflated the Budget by adding about N250b more to the total figure as submitted by Mr President. This, the NASS leadership out rightly rejected as a form of financial recklessness and inability to appreciate the dwindling resources available to government necessitating that we act prudently.
“He was directed therefore to make even further cuts below Mr Presidents total figure.
“Hon Jibrin in his desperation to ingratiate himself into the good books of the Presidency, unilaterally entered into commitments on the structure of the Budget ,without the knowledge of the National Assembly Leadership, in the full knowledge, not only that he had no authority to do so , but dishonestly had no intentions of keeping to those commitments , having done the exact opposite in processing the budget details.
“This brought the House into disrepute as it portrayed the National Assembly and its leadership as persons who couldn’t keep their word.
“He displayed crass ineptitude and general lack of capacity to handle the work, thereby serving as a clog in the appropriations process. He contributed significantly to the delays in the passage of the Appropriation Bill.
“No one, not even his Deputy and Members of the Appropriations Committee, could reach him at certain periods during the budget process.
“Indeed, on the last day of the exercise, he went underground to avoid being compelled to show areas he had hidden most of the cuts he claimed he made, an act which amounted to gross insubordination and an attempt to hold captive, all involved in the budget chain to the point of entirely frustrating the passage of the Budget.
“The tripartite Committee of the Senate, House and Executive thus completed the 2016 Budget without Hon Abdulmumin as he was hiding, believing that the job could not be done without him”.
While chanlenging the embattled lawmaker to make good his threat of releasing hard facts supporting his claims, Namdas said EFCC has been invited to look into the past activities of Jibrin.
He said: “Confirming some of the reasons for his removal and true to type, Hon Abdulmumin has since after his sack, resorted to blackmail, his stock in trade. He has released documents from dubious sources in a desperate bid to lure gullible members of the public to his side.
“Mr Speaker’s inputs to the 2016 Budget was signed and delivered to him. If he has honour, let him release the signed inputs of Mr Speaker and not pieces of paper that bears no acknowledged authorship.
“Our counsel to Hon Abdulmumin is for him to be real as a man by bringing up credible, authentic and verifiable documents or stubborn facts which disclose the commission of crime on the part of any Member or Leader of the House.
“If he can’t, then let him go and sulk in secret over his sack.
“The Leadership was also in receipt of complaints about his activities as Chair of Finance Committee in the 7th Assembly, which had potentials to embarrass the House.
“Investigations found that from 2011 – 2015 Hon Abdulmumin domiciled with Hadejia – Jama’are River Basin Authority and few other MDAs some of the allocations meant for his former Finance Committee members.
“He was alleged to have aided the use of front companies that collected funds without executing most of the projects.
“The Projects have been compiled and will be referred to the Anti Graft Agencies to establish why the projects were fully paid for and not executed, who collected the funds and why has Hon Abdulmumin not raised any alarm about the non execution of the projects even now?”.
On why was Jibrin entrusted with Appropriation Committee chairmanship in spite of his antecedents while chairing Finance Committee, Namdas said the leadership and the Selection Committee were not aware of such activities as at that time.
Jibrin to Dogara: address corruption allegations against you
Sacked House of Representatives Appropriation Committee Chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin has challenged Speaker Yakubu Dogara and the other principal officers to address the corruption allegations he leveled against them.
In a response to the House’s statement yesterday, he asked: “Why did you take the decision to fraudulently shortchange the House by taking away N40 billion out of the N100 billion allocated for constituency projects and distributing same to yourself and others without the approval of the House?
”Why did you approach the former House Appropriation Chairman with written personal requests and list of about N30 billion to be inserted into the 2016 budget and his inability to get that done caused a major rift between you all and him?
“Why did you insert wasteful projects for your various constituencies worth about 20billion naira despite the former appropriation chairman professional advice against such?
“Why did you ignore his complaint to you that just about 10 standing committees of the House inserted over 2000 projects worth 284 billion naira?
“Why did you take away the Appropriation Committee secretariat on two occasions where several insertions were made into the budget which created avoidable tension during the budget process?