The budget scandal in the House of Representatives has opened grounds for horse trading as several lawmakers who felt left out during the constitution of the so-called “plum committees” last year, are now demanding for assurances of compensation from its leadership, before joining others to pass a vote of confidence on Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
The House has been embroiled in crisis following the sack of Hon. Jubrin Abdulmumini as the Chairman, Committee on Appropriation by his former ally, Dogara.
Following his ouster, Abdulmumuni has employed a scorched earth policy by accusing Dogara, Deputy Speaker, Yussuf Sulaimon Lasun, Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor of allocating N40 billion to themselves out of the N100 billion appropriated for the National Assembly, and making “senseless’ insertions into the 2016 budget”.
He also petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Nigeria Police, demanding the arrest and prosecution of the speaker, three principal officers, and 11 committee chairmen for corruption and abuse of office.
But as the crisis over Abdulmumini’s revelations gathered steam, the North-central caucus of the House headed by Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Jibril Buba (Kogi APC), met for several hours at the National Assembly yesterday, while the North West caucus, headed by Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa (Kano APC) met in Kaduna.
Also, Dogara’s “kitchen cabinet”, headed by Hon. Mukhtar Betara (Borno APC), met at the National Assembly. The speaker was however not at any of the meetings.
Leaders of the caucuses had set up the meetings to get enough signatures to pass a vote of confidence on Dogara and the House leadership, but were confronted by aggrieved members who were “unsatisfied with certain developments in the management of the House”.
“Some wanted certain things and are using this window to demand for it. Some felt left out in the scheme of things, and are saying yes, while they support Dogara, their interests should be taken care of,” a lawmaker from one of the northern states told THISDAY.
The lawmaker explained that a decision was therefore taken to ensure any acrimony or bitterness among members was resolved before going public with the “vote of confidence” plan.
He, however, assured that Dogara still has a comfortable majority among the lawmakers, with at least 75 per cent support from each of the caucuses.
The lawmaker, who preferred not to be named, added that members of the APC caucus from the South-west, were still on the fence as they were awaiting instructions from their national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu.
“But Ekiti members are completely with Dogara,” the lawmaker claimed, adding that “they cannot get members to remove Dogara, even if there are external influences, it will not happen”.
The North-central caucus, at its meeting, THISDAY gathered, agreed on the need to protect the lower chamber from any “rampaging external forces” allegedly using Abdulmumini to create discord.
A member of the caucus, who opened up on the meeting, confirmed that the caucus and other caucuses in the House would soon formally pass a vote of confidence on the speaker.
“The problem is that we are on recess and this recess is really long. So since we are not holding plenary, we have resolved to show our support for the House leadership. We would pass a vote of confidence on the speaker, but I am not sure what day that would be, as other caucuses are still meeting,” the lawmaker said.
The lawmaker was also adamant that Dogara would not be removed, saying: “No plot to remove Dogara would work, forget it.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House also dismissed the plot of impeachment against Dogara.
Although the PDP caucus did not hold its meeting which was scheduled to take place yesterday, Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, presented its position.
Speaking with THISDAY, Ogor said the allegations levelled against the speaker and other principal officers were “non-issues”, adding that investigations by the anti-graft agencies would unravel what “is really the truth”.
“The first point of call would be to examine what happened to the budget that Mr. President refused to assent to and the truth would be revealed. We would see who would laugh last, but it is definitely not those shouting wolf today. We, in the PDP caucus, would not lose sleep over this,” he said.
He added that Dogara has the full support of the caucus. “How can you impeach him, what are the offences? There is an impeachment process…let him (Abdulmumim) come and make his allegations open.
“Is it the Zonal Intervention Fund? Let us see the allegations, we should be confronted with facts, then we will respond clearly to them. We are happy and excited that the man himself has run to the EFCC and ICPC, so we are waiting for their invitation. Our doors are open, because it would unravel a lot of things,” Ogor added.
The Ghost of Farouk is Resurrected
However, Abdulmumini, who was at the EFCC last night, yesterday also accused the Chairman of the House Committee on Interior, Hon. Jagaba Adams Jagaba of not being able to account for $500,000 which was allegedly given to him by a former House member, Farouk Lawan, after the latter received the amount four years ago as bribe from the Chairman of Forte Oil Plc, Mr. Femi Otedola.
In order not to indict Otedola and his companies, Farouk had allegedly demanded $3 million dollars from the Forte Oil chairman in 2012 when he chaired the adhoc committee to investigate the fuel subsidy scam.
Otedola had played along and paid out $620,000 to Farouk in a sting job that was to lead to his prosecution and ended his career as a legislator.
At the time, no trace of the $620,000 was ever found until yesterday when Abdulmumuni alleged that $500,000 was given to Jagaba, but could no longer be accounted for.
He also described Jagaba, whose name he included in his petitions to the anti-graft agencies as one of the committee chairmen who inserted 2,000 projects into the budget, as corrupt and a bigot.
Reacting to the allegation, Jagaba challenged Abdulmumini to back up his claim that $500,000 kept in his care during the Farouk bribery scandal had disappeared.
Jagaba, in a phone conversation with THISDAY, said Abdulmumini should provide documents to back his claim.
“I am not afraid of EFCC at all. If he strongly feels about it, he should stop making noise, he should write a petition on it and attach the relevant documents,” he said.
Jagaba described Abdulmumini as a “loose canon”.
“I do not want to join issues with a loose canon,” Jagaba said.