By Eric Elezuo
When on July 20, 2016, Speaker Yakubu Dogara announced the removal of Abdulmumuni Jibrin as House Appropriation Committee chairman in a speech he read in plenary, alleging budget fraud and serial betrayal of trust, the stage was set for repercussions and restitutions.
Jibrin did not keep quiet, he went to town with accusation and counter-accusation of budget padding and other sundry offences against the person of the House of Representative Speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara and other Principal Officers namely the Deputy Speaker, Hon Yusuf; Chief Whip, Hon. Doguwa and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, and some chairmen of House committees. To back his allegations, Jibrin released damning documents to the media.
On July 30, the State Security Service sealed the secretariat of the Appropriation Committee in the National Assembly after Jibrin raised the alarm that Dogara had allegedly concluded plans to cart away computers and destroy evidence. That was when the agency was listening.
He also visited law enforcement agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the SSS and the police, where he said he personally submitted petitions detailing evidence of fraudulent manipulation of budget by Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa, Ogor, and nine others.
After several days of silence, Dogara succumbed to public pressure on him to defend himself and he came out with blistering statements denying all the allegations against him. He specifically took up the ‘budget padding’ catchphrase, saying it was a strange term to use when describing the actions of the legislature.
He also said lawmakers could not be probed by law enforcement agencies over any infractions in the National Assembly, but later retracted this statement.
At some point, the ruling All Progressives Congress moved to contain the crisis, but its gag order lasted only a weekend, according to reports.
But as the matter seem to begin the unhealthy opening of can of worms, the lawmakers began openly criticising Jibrin for allegedly defacing the National Assembly, dealing a major blow to his crusade. Jibrin’s isolation became even more pronounced after 10 principal officers of the House released a statement backing Dogara and denouncing Jibrin. Amongst them was Femi Gbajabiamila, the Majority Leader, who many thought would be reluctant to openly back Dogara.
Jibrin remained undaunted and continued his accusations which he supported with substantiated documents and evidence, but at this time, no one was listening anymore. The House was solidly behind the Speaker, and constituted an Ethics and Privileges committee to try Jibrin when most people had thought that the Speaker could be called to order. In apparent disbelieve of justice coming from the committee, Jibrin shunned the committee’s invitation.
The development sparked speculation that Jibrin would be suspended upon resumption of the House from recess. So on resumption on September 20, a lawmaker loyal to Dogara, Emmanuel Orker-Jev, (APC-Benue) moved a motion the next day to have Jibrin probed for allegedly breaching the privileges of the members. He proposed tough sanctions against Jibrin for the damage his allegations have allegedly wrought on the House.
Jibrin was subsequently banned for 180 legislative days; a suspension which would see him banned from the premises of the National Assembly in the course of the disciplinary action. He would also not receive salaries or allowances for duration of his suspension.
In his reaction to the punishment handed down to him, Jibrin said, “I wish to state that the suspension is unfounded as the entire process is flawed. The so called suspension is ridiculous, a non-issue and a bunch of nonsense that cannot stand anywhere in the world.
“Let me state very clearly that I will never ever apologise to anybody in the House of Representatives. There is no reason what so ever to apologise. I did not commit any offense. I did not abuse my office. I have said it repeatedly that in the five years that I have served in the House of Representatives, I have never corruptly enriched myself.
“In contrast, these are allegations that I raised against Mr. Speaker, three principal officers and few other committee chairmen, to which they have not responded till date.
“The bad news for Speaker Dogara and his corrupt cabal is despite doing their worst and exhausted their bullets by ‘suspending’ me, it has not in any way changed the fact that the Speaker conspired with some principal officers to commit monumental budget fraud, corruption and abuse of their various offices.
“I stand by all the allegations I raised. I wish to state categorically clear that there exist chronic individual and systemic corruption in the House, which has made it difficult for members to assert their independence. It is on the strength of such weak institution that Speaker Dogara continue to flaunt a fake popularity in the House of Representatives. In the next few days I will provide proof of shocking systemic corruption in the House.
“In the next few days, Nigerians will know how much the House stinks of corruption. I shall continue this struggle to expose corruption in the House, push for reforms and ensure that justice is served on Speaker Dogara and others.”
True to his words, Jibrin has continued to make one accusation after another from his suspension base, the latest being the fraud associated with the House Running Cost, which he seriously asked the government to scrap.
Much as the war of words continue, isn’t it time foe someone somewhere give a listening ear to the allegations and if not for anything, investigate it.
Political watchers, stakeholders and Nigerians in general are apprehensive, believing that the House decision was politically inclined, especially looking at the reason given by the House for suspending the lawmaker.
They are of the opinion that the House ought to have eschewed flimsy excuse used to nail Jibrin and investigate various allegations on budget padding raised by the lawmaker against the House leadership if they have the love of the country at heart.
The time is now if there is any iota of truth in the fight against corruption and the change begins with me crusades being carried out by the present administration.