Budget Padding Scandal:  The battle has just begun—Jibrin


…Says his suspension won’t stand, vows to upturn it in court

 Mr Yakubu Dogara-led House of Representatives on Wednesday booted out former Chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin after finding him guilty of violating ethics and privileges of lawmakers.

Jibrin had accused the house leadership of engagement in budget fraud while the opportunity given him to appear before a committee set up by the House to prove the allegation was ignored on the account that the panel was a ruse to oust him from office.

The recommendation of the panel for Jibrin’s suspension without hearing his side was acted upon almost immediately by the House leadership which appeared to be ‘working to the answer’.

Jibrin, according to the terms of suspension slammed on him was not to be seen on the premises of the House of Representatives for a full session of 180 legislative days while his salary and allowances would be forfeited.

But undaunted Jibrin on Wednesday declared that his suspension would not stand, saying his purported trial offended principles of lis pendens, fair hearing, natural justice and audi alteram partem and would definitely be nullified in court.

He said he had done nothing wrong and, as such, would not apologise.

“Let me say, I will never ever apologise to anybody in the House of Representatives,” Mr. Jibrin said in a statement. “I did not commit any offence.”

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He also vowed Wednesday that the battle to engage the leadership of the House of Representatives over the budget padding allegation had just started.

He said the illegal suspension would afford him the opportunity to closely work with civil society groups to engage the House of Representatives in order to rid of corruption.

Already, 16 advocacy groups had called on the leadership of the National Assembly to step down.

The groups including SERAP and BudGit had contended that the leadership of the assembly had demonstrated that they lacked transparency and accountability particularly with the way they handled the nation’s budget and failure to disclose how much they appropriated to themselves for both their recurrent and capital budgets.

In a joint statement by the groups, they said “the lack of accountability regularly exhibited by the National Assembly is dangerous for the country’s democracy because those elected to provide oversight over the executive arm’s implementation of the country’s budget are incapable of ensuring accountability, given that they have refused to be accountable in the use of resources allocated to them.”

In the last three years, the statement said the National Assembly had refused to respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and a court order to provide its detailed budget.

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“This was despite the fact that both the Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, promised at the inauguration of the 8th Assembly that they would make the details of the National Assembly spending public.

“It is against this backdrop of a failure to be accountable in something as basic as a budget that our National Assembly has been rocked from one crisis to another, including trying to gag social media; pushing a bill that would seriously undermine the work and independence of civil society and thereby violate constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association; purchasing new cars at exorbitant prices; fraud allegations against the Senate President that have paralyzed proceedings on several occasions; deliberating immunity and life pension for its leadership when they already get a gratuity after every term; and a possibility that they’ve violated the Constitution by not sitting the requisite number of days,” the statement said.

The groups also took a dim view of the response of Mr. Dogara to the recent crisis in House of Representatives involving him, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, former Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, other principal officers and 12 other House members.

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Mr. Jibrin is the first lawmaker to be suspended since 2010 when Dino Melaye and 10 others were found guilty of breaching House ethics and privileges.

Others affected at the time by the suspension were West Idahosa, Austin Nwachukwu, Gbenga Onigbogi, Doris Uboh, Gbenga Oduaye, Independence Ogunewe, Solomon Achinawhi, Kayode Amusa, Anas Abass, and Bitmus Kaze received indefinite suspension alongside Mr. Melaye on June 22, 2010 under the speakership of Dimeji Bankole.

Mr. Melaye is now a senator representing Kogi West.

In the 4th National Assembly, 1999 -2003, two senators, Arthur Nzeribe and Joseph Waku, were also suspended for ethical misconduct.

Mr. Jibrin’s allegations against Speaker Yakubu Dogara and others stemmed from his ouster as the chair of the much-coveted Committee on Appropriation.

Mr. Dogara announced Mr. Jibrin’s removal shortly before the House proceeded on an eight-week-long recess July 20, citing budget fraud and serial betrayal of trust.

On September 21, barely a day after resuming, Mr. Dogara’s loyalists moved a motion at the plenary seeking disciplinary actions against Mr. Jibrin.

Emmanuel Orker-Jev, a lawmaker from Benue, had proposed tough sanctions against Mr. Jibrin for the damage his allegations had wrought on the House.