Says I stand by my statements
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The spat between the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and the former Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Jibrin Abdulmumin, showed no sign of thawing yesterday as the House hit back at the former chairman, accusing him of misconduct, incompetence and abuse of office and the budgetary process.
But in a swift reaction, Abdulmumin restated his allegations of abuse of office against the speaker, his deputy, Lasun Yusuf; the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor; and the Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, posting 20 questions he said the principal officers must answer to clear their names.
The House, however, said the report of an internal investigation conducted on several allegations against Abdulmumin would soon be made public and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would be invited take the matter up.
The Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, addressed the press yesterday and insisted that Abdulmumin’s removal was based on sundry acts of misconduct, incompetence, total disregard for his colleagues and abuse of the budgetary process, among others.
He also noted that the lawmaker displayed immaturity and a lack of capacity to handle his sensitive position, which exposed him to highly placed government officials at all levels.
Namdas disclosed that in accordance with the rules of the House, the matter would be handled by the Committee on Ethics and Privileges where “Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin will be afforded the opportunity of fair hearing.”
Abdulmumim, Namdas said, was not removed earlier because investigations were being conducted based on allegations levelled against him even during his tenure as Chairman of the House Committee on Finance in the seventh Assembly.
In a lengthy text read by Namdas, the House said Abdulmumim, who has made several damning allegations against Speaker Yakubu Dogara and some principal officers, had a tendency and proclivity to blackmail colleagues and highly placed government officials, misused and mishandled 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,” he said, alleging further that: “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.”
Namdas further accused the embattled lawmaker of currying favour from President Muhammadu Buhari by the insertion of funds for Muhammadu Buhari Film Village in his (Abdulmumin’s) constituency in Kano State and the citing of numerous projects in Daura without the consent or solicitation of the President.
This, Namdas said, was an attempt to blackmail the President and allow for the allocation of N4.1 billion to his Kiru/Bebeji federal constituency.
Abdulmumin, he said, went about soliciting members to nominate projects for him to help them include in the budget, adding that when called upon to defend his actions as Appropriation’s Chairman, he started calling the names of members and the amount he helped them to insert in the budget in an unsuccessful bid to silence them.
Namdas said “members affected 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.”
According to Namdas: “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.”
He said the former chairman’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 President’s total figure,” Namdas said.
The House’s spokesman insisted that the former chairman’s ouster was due to his incompetence which contributed significantly to the delays in the passage of the budget. “No one, not even his Deputy and Members of the Appropriations Committee, could reach him at certain periods during the budget process,” he claimed.
Denying Abdulmumin’s allegation that Dogara pressured him to pad the budget, Namdas said: “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.”
Stating that the former chairman lost credibility as a result of his untowards activities that drew the ire of his colleagues, the House spokesman accused the latter unfair deals, stating that many of his colleagues had complained in writing to the leadership about him.
He said: “The Leadership was also in receipt of complaints about his activities as Chair of Finance Committee in the 7th Assembly, which had potentialnto 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?”
According to Namdas: “Twice, in Executive Sessions, members unanimously and vehemently demanded that the Speaker remove Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin from the Appropriations Committee for gross abuse of his position as Chairman. However, the Speaker, tried to manage the situation but members did not relent on their agitations for his removal not only for gross abuse of his position but also for the poor and incompetent handling of 2016 appropriation process.”
“It is regrettably true that Hon Abdulmumin was entrusted with critical aspects of the budget, but he is not the sole author of the budget as he appears to be portraying himself. Every reasonable person knows that it is a bare faced lie. His stories without corroboration from anyone who was deeply involved in the Budget process is, mere tales by moon light, a fitting story for bed time. If he has any witness, let them speak up in his support. Apparently, he doesn’t know that no one can be convicted even in the court of public opinion based on the evidence of one man.”
The House, said Namdas, frowned on the claim that insertion of projects into the budget by the legislator amounted to corruption arguing that under
Sections 4, 59 and 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Assemby is empowered to appropriate monies for projects.
He said: “Section 4, empowers the National Assembly to make laws for 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 that: “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 AND SHOULD NEVER 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.”
Reacting to the allegations against him, Abdulmumin said he stood by his statements that the speaker, his deputy, minority leader and whip had grossly abused their offices, adding that the same could, however, not be said about him.
He stated that his allegations were against the leadership and the House.
The former chairman then posed 20 questions to the leadership, asking the House and the anti-graft agencies to compel them to answer. His queries:
• Why did you take the decision to fraudulently short-change the House by taking away 40 billion naira out of the 100 billion naira 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 30 billion naira 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?
• Why did you direct the former appropriation chair which he rejected to create a strange line item in the service wide vote to allow for a 20 billion naira insertion into the budget under the name of NASS using a former PDP Senator and top politician?
• Why are you trying to scam members with a fraudulent arrangement to deduct monthly from money meant for members’ office running cost to fund a so called mortgage arrangement?
• Why did you abuse your office in a conflict of interest directed at an agency to grant loans and a construction company to work on your Asokoro plot and arrange frequent private meetings with heads of MDA’s?
• Why did you allocate to yourselves the entire 20% inputs reserved for the House after the harmonization exercise?
• How much did you collect for rent of house and guests houses and how much did Hon Herma Hembe steal from the money that caused the outburst of Lasun?
• Why are you trying to drag the entire House and illegally using the official spokesman of the House into allegations that were made on you and the 3 others ONLY?
• Why did you consistently block the former chairman appropriation from briefing Hon members and denied him his right to be heard by his colleagues on this matter?
• Why did you scuttle his effort and Sen Goje’s to assist Mr. President after working so hard consulting ministers on the budget out of envy and vindictiveness that Mr. President granted them audience without you?
• Why did you insist and ensured that the immunity clause for the House principal officers is inserted into our agenda despite huge resistance from members and the general public?
• Why did you connive with 5 other members of the House to use some elements of the Nigerian police and thugs in an attempt to blackmail, kidnap, intimidate and silence him and his family?
• Why are you desperately going round media houses offering money to silent the statements of the former appropriation chairman?
• Why has it taken you this long to put together such a lame story of why you “sacked” the former appropriation chairman after admitting on national TV that he resigned?
• Is it true that you left a huge mess and allegations of money laundering against you as chairman House services both in the 6th and 7th House?
• Why have you refused to open up the financial dealings and details of internal budget of the House to your colleagues, Hon members?
• WHY DO YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WITH RECONVENING THE HOUSE IMMEDIATELY TO ALLOW FOR AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION ON THE ALLEGATIONS?”