Chief of Staff to the President , Mallam Abba Kyari ; President Muhammadu Buhari and visiting former president Oluisegun Obasanjo during the Obasanjo visit to the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Monday. Photo: GODWIN OMOIGUI
  • Advises Buhari to be vigilant
  • Tinubu says she has forgiven Melaye
  • Kogi senator: It’s an old story
  • Saraki names Udoma, Akabueze members of budget reform committee
  • Ndume: Claims of budget padding in house a lie
  • Investigate Dogara, Lasun for corrupt practices, Abdulmumin urges EFCC

Tobi Soniyi, Omololu Ogunmade and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said the recent revelation of budget padding has confirmed his stance that the National Assembly is host to corrupt people.

This came as Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, described the allegation as unnecessary and unfortunate, saying: “There is nothing like budget padding as far as the National Assembly is concerned.”

Obasanjo while speaking after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, counselled the president to be very vigilant in his dealings with the National Assembly.
The former president said he came to the State House to brief the president on his recent trips to The Gambia and Liberia.

Asked if he was concerned about the issue of corruption in the National Assembly, particularly with respect to recent revelations emanating from the House of Representatives on budget padding, he gave a convoluted response that required some thinking: “Well, if you said that I have said it in the past and if there are people who didn’t believe what I said in the past, then you now say that what has come out confirms what I said in the past, then you can say what I said in the past is what I will say now.”

Asked if he would want the allegation of budget padding to be investigated, Obasanjo said: “It is not a question of investigation, we should get men and women of integrity in the place and the president should be very vigilant, whatever should not pass should not pass.”

Last January, Obasanjo had written to the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, accusing the lawmakers of fixing and earning salaries and allowances far above what the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) approved for them.

He also alleged that most of the lawmakers were paid constituency allowances without maintaining constituency offices as required by the law.

Obasanjo arrived the Villa at about 12.30 p.m. and headed straight into Buhari’s office.
He said: “I’m visiting this time because I have some messages for the president. Not too long ago I was in Liberia and The Gambia and I have messages these two countries will want me to deliver to the president.

“Also, only yesterday I came back from Seychelles Island where I attended this year’s annual general meeting of Africa Export Development Bank. And there are aspects of the proceedings that I think I should update the president on.”

When asked if he enjoyed travelling around the world, he said: “Travelling is good education, what you will learn about a country by visiting that country for two or three days you won’t learn by reading through books.”
Obasanjo, 79, said he had no intention of slowing down.

However, Senate Leader, Ndume, described the allegation of budget padding by the sacked Chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, Abdumumini Jibrin, against the House of Representatives’ Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, as unnecessary and unfortunate, saying: “There is nothing like budget padding as far as the National Assembly is concerned.”
Ndume who made this remarks yesterday while answering questions from journalists in the National Assembly, said working on a budget either by adding to an allocation or subtracting from it or even bringing completely new allocations into the budget by the National Assembly cannot be described as padding because the legislature is empowered to do so.

He said: “I don’t want to say that there was budget padding and I don’t want to talk about something I really don’t know but what is happening in the House of Represenatives is just very unfortunate because we have processes and procedure of doing things in the National Assembly.

“If somebody has an issue, he’s supposed to know what to do and not just by going to the press but I think they are going to sort out things in the next coming days. There is nothing like budget padding. If it is the National Assembly that worked on the budget, then you don’t call it padding because padding is like illegality which is not done here.

“But if there are certain abnormalities in the budget passed as against what transpired in the budget process which is now an Appropriation Act, I think they should know the right thing to do rather than engaging in media war. They have relevant committees to handle such a matter. So, if Hon. Jibrin is aggrieved, he needs to write a petition or whatever and that should be referred to Ethics and Privileges Committee for the needed investigation,” he said.
Ndume also described the allegation of impeachment plot against President Muhammadu Buhari in the Senate as nothing but a hoax. According to him, even if that thought was ever conceived by any senator, it can only remain in the realm of imagination because the Senate alone cannot impeach the president in a bicameral legislature.

“The Senate cannot impeach the president. It is the National Assembly that can impeach the president and it is by two-thirds based on clearly stated impeachable offences that must be served on the president which he must respond to, or if he fails to respond , the process is there.

“It is a process; a long tedious process and in this country, we don’t even need that. We are not even contemplating it and even if anybody contemplates it, it is not going to work because this is APC’s Senate. We have the majority. We have 58 to 60 senators and you need 72 senators to start off an impeachment process.

“In a nutshell, the issue of impeachment is non-existent in the Senate. We don’t need it because we don’t have a president that has issues of corruption, integrity, mismanagement of the economy at hand. We have a president that is straight forward and he doesn’t have any mismanagement of anything through abuse of due process,” Ndume added.
On the rift between Senators Dino Melaye (Kogi West) and Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central), Ndume said he had appealed to both senators to sheathe their swords, disclosing that Tinubu had equally told him that she had forgiven Melaye while Melaye on the other hand, had also said he had put the matter behind him.

“Oluremi told me personally that she had forgiven Dino and Dino had already said he was ready to move on and that there is no problem,” he said.

Also yesterday, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, inaugurated a Budget Technical Committee saddled with the responsibility of evolving a comprehensive budget reform proposal that will aid the passage of an appropriation bill.
According to Saraki, the reform proposal expected from the committee will close the structural and procedural gaps that limit transparency and accountability in the budget process and fiscal discipline; design a legislative framework that will fully provide for effective oversight of off-budget accounts that typically lack oversight and transparency, design efficient timelines for the entire budget process, enable the National Assembly to adequately interrogate budget bills fully before passage and create new tools for efficiency in the implementation of budget oversight schemes of the National Assembly.

The committee is also expected to create performance reports on all aspects of the budget including the budget of the three arms of governments; ensure that the National Assembly open budget policy initiative of the eight Senate is underpinned by legislation and therefore irreversible; deal with irregular rendition of quarterly budget implementation by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs); address the absence of continuous legislative oversight structure within the MDAs; remedy the inadequate budget impact assessment scheme; develop a robust linkage between budget outcome and the next budget and address poor oversight scheme.

The committee is chaired by Ndume. Other members of the committee are Senators Danjuma Goje, Baba Kaka Garba; Hon. Orker Jev Emmanuel and Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma.

Saraki also inaugurated a technical committee with the task of providing technical assistance to the committee.
Members of the technical committee include the Director General of National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), Dr. Ladi Hamalai; Director General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze ; Prof. Mike Obadan; Dr. Adeyemi Fajingbesi; Mr. Kingsley Amaku; Chinedu Omenka Samuel; H. O. Olutoye; Hon. C.I D. Maduabum and Dr. Chris Asoluka.
The first committee was also charged to ensure the review of the reports emanating from the technical committee and present the final report to the Senate President.

Meanwhile, Abdulmumim yesterday urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor for corrupt practices in handling the affairs of the House.

In a statement released, the embattled lawmaker continued his release of allegations of corruption against those he has termed the quartet.

The House is however expected to formally respond to his allegations today at a press conference to be addressed by the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Namdas Abdulrazak.

The House in a statement last week, denied all allegations against the Speaker and the principal officers.
Abdulmumim in the statement, accused Dogara of abusing his office by soliciting funds from agencies and multinational companies.

He urged the EFCC to look into Dogara’s tenure as Chairman of the Committee on House Services on the seventh assembly.

The full statement read: “Dogara and his senior cabal namely: Lasun, Doguwa and Ogor, have promoted corruption so badly in the House that if President Muhammadu Buhari with his disdain for corruption and corrupt people have the slightest idea, he will ban the quartet permanently from the Presidential Villa before they eventually allow for proper and unbiased investigation by the House.

“Mr. Speaker and his deputy diverted millions of naira all in the name of paying for guest houses and official residence. The issue became so messy that the Deputy Speaker openly accused Hon. Herman Hembe of short changing them of millions of naira in the deal to the shock of many members.

“Dogara frequently abuses his office amounting to conflict of interest by soliciting for inappropriate favours from agencies and multinational companies. He forced an agency to grant loans and a construction company blackmailed to do some work at his Asokoro ‘plot’.

“Dogara has carefully designed a scheme to scam members through deduction from their salaries certain amount of money for a so called mortgage arrangements to build houses for members. He has been applying every under hand tactics to ensure members agree to the deal.

“Dogara has consistently refused members access to the financial dealings and internal budget of the House. He runs the financial management of the House like a cult aided and abated by the Chairman House services, Babanlle Ila. It is no longer news that all over the House, members are aware of the monumental fraud perpetrated by Dogara in this regard.

“We are even told that this is a child’s play compared to the mess and allegations of money laundering he left behind as Chairman house services in both the sixth and seventh assembly. The EFCC should have something to start working with in respect to his tenure as Chairman House services if they properly dust their files.
“I am therefore once again calling on colleagues and well meaning Nigerians to prevail on Dogara and his three other cohorts to put the interest of country first and allow the House to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations on them.”

Reacting to the allegations, the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media, Mr. Turaki Hassan, described them as lies.
In a statement, he said: “These are all lies and desperate attempts of a drowning man to clutch unto anything having found that all his frivolous allegations do not disclose any element of corruption or wrongdoing against Mr. Speaker.”