Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the former Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Jibrin Abdulmumin, to retract all allegations of corruption against him and tender an unreserved apology or face legal action.
Abdulmumin, however, described Dogara’s threat of legal action as a ploy to stop the House from investigating his allegations.
He said he would not retract the allegations, adding that his lawyers had officially approached the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to work out a date for him to submit his petition against the speaker, Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor.
This is as a new group among the lawmakers named Transparency Group demanded that the anti-graft agencies open investigations into the allegations levelled against the speaker and other principal officers.
Dogara and Abdulmumin have been engaged in a public spat since the removal of the latter as chairman of the coveted committee on Appropriations last week.
Counsel to Dogara, Prof. Joash Ojo Amupitan (SAN) & Co, in a letter addressed to the committee chairman, said the recent statements released to the media were aimed at tarnishing the speaker’s image at home and abroad.
The letter titled: “Request for a Retraction and an Apology of a Libellous Press Statement issued by you on Monday 25th July, 2016” was signed by the principal partner of the law firm, Prof. Joash Amupitan, and referred to Abdulmumin’s statement titled: “The Corrupt Speaker Yakubu Dogara and his 3-man Cabal”.
The law firm said the personal references in the former committee chairman’s statement, which alleged several corrupt practices were directed at Dogara and were, therefore, libellous, as they had put the speaker’s reputation into public opprobrium, odium, scorn and ridicule.
“By the said publication and without putting to the public any shred of evidence, our client is portrayed as a criminal, corrupt, dishonest, fraudulent, dishonourable and unfit to hold the position of Speaker of House of Representatives. Our client’s reputation has further been brought down in the estimation of right thinking members of the society and he has been thrown into public opprobrium, odium, scorn and ridicule,” the firm said.
It added: “Consequently, we consider your publication on the matter as not only libellous but made in bad faith; an act of vendetta owing to your recent removal as the Chairman of House Committee on Appropriation. The said publication is also aimed at causing disaffection between Nigerians and members of the House of Representatives.
“Sequel to the above, we have to request you to submit immediately to us a clear and unqualified apology and retraction of the publication in an equally conspicuous position in all the print and electronic media where the publication appeared. TAKE NOTICE that in the event of your failure/refusal to comply with the above mentioned demands within seven (7) days of your receipt of this letter, we have further instructions to institute a suit against you in a court of law.”
Meanwhile, the Transparency Group at a press conference addressed by Hon. Musa Soba (Kaduna APC) said 113 signatures had been collated from members representing all geopolitical zones, and across party lines.
Only five members were, however, present at the briefing alongside Soba. They were Hon. Abubakar Chika (Niger APC), Hon. Baballe Bashir (Kano APC), Hon. Bala Ikora (Kaduna APC) and Hon. Lawal Yahaha (Bauchi-APC).
Soba said the signatures had been collated before the recent Salah recess to demand that Dogara addresses the discrepancies in the budget.
“We call for an external investigation into the matter,” the group said, arguing that this was necessary because the budget that was allegedly padded was a public document.