Security Operatives Seal off House Appropriation Committee Secretariat

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• Deny clerk, staff access

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The Clerk of the Committee on Appropriation, Dr. Abel Ochigbo, and his staff could not access the secretariat of the committee yesterday as security agents prevented them from doing so.

Yesterday’s development followed the face off between the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and the erstwhile Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumin, over allegations of budget padding leveled by the latter against the speaker, key leaders of the House and some committee chairmen.

The denial of access implied that the Secretariat of the committee may have been sealed off as claimed by Abdulmumin through his twitter handle earlier on Saturday.
Abdulmumin had accused Speaker Dogara of ordering the computers in the Committee’s secretariat be moved to his office in a view to tapering with evidence.

The lawmaker had also alleged that there was an attempt to break into his office, Rm 1.05.
In one of his tweets on Saturday, he said: “On the request of my lawyers, the security agencies have promptly provided protection for the appropriation secretariat, my office and house.”

Ochigbo, fielding questions from journalists, said contrary to his claim, no computer or document in the secretariat had been removed. He also said that the secretariat had not been sealed as claimed.

But attempt by him to access the secretariat at about 4.30pm on Saturday so as to prove that it had not been sealed failed as security operatives denied him access.
“Nothing is wrong with the secretariat, everything is intact in the secretariat.

The thinking is that the status quo should be maintained. Of course I can’t instruct them to open the doors by force. So please bear with us because instead of keeping you here I feel I should make this statement. They are safeguarding the office,” he told journalist after he was prevented from accessing the secretariat.

Ochigbo also claimed that no staff had been harassed to intimidated.
In a letter addressed to the Acting Clerk of the National Assembly, he further said: “I write to confirm that the committee secretariat is intact and has not been threatened in any way. All records are also in tact and safe. Both hardware and software, in addition, our archival set up is properly kept and in order.

Furthermore, no staff in the secretariat of the committee has been subjected to any form of threat, intimidation or harassment from any quarter whatsoever. Any such reports along the lines of the above allegations should therefore be totally disregarded.”
Earlier the Chairman of the Appropriation Commitee, Hon. Mustapha Dawaki, told journalists that all the documents in the secretariat were intact, including computer hardware and software.

But as the budget saga continue to rage, Abdulmumin has not shown any sign that he would back down. At the weekend, he released several tweets threatening to disclose further details to buttress the allegations he made against the speaker and other key officers of the House. One of the tweets reads: “I will share with you the contents of my petition to the EFCC and ICPC in due course & shall return more shocking revelations…”

He noted that this was a defining moment in the struggle to cleanse the House and the first time a member would drag 12 of his colleagues to anti-graft agencies.

Apart from the speaker, deputy speaker, whip and minority whip, others listed in his petition to the EFCC and ICPC, according to him, include Chairman House Committee on Interior, Hon. Jagaba Adams; Chairman House Services Committee, Hon. Babanle Ila; Chairman Committee on Power, Hon. Dan Asuquo; Chairman Committee on Marine Transport, Hon. Mohammed Bago; Chairman Committee on Police, Hon. Haliru Jika; Chairman Committee on FCT, Hon. Herma Hembe; Chairman Committee on Higher Education, Hon. Zakari Mohammed; and Chairman Committee on Health, Hon. Chike Okafor.

Abdumumin said the case against them ranges from corrupt enrichment, abuse of office and public trust, living above means and massive movement of funds in budget. In another tweet, the lawmaker said: “I am confident that the EFCC and ICPC will effect the arrest of Speaker Dogara and the 11 others to commence prosecution in earnest.”

Insinuating that the speaker was using his office for personal gain, Abdulmumin in yet another tweet said: “Speaker Dogara has resorted to blame of so-called external forces, are those forces responsible for moving FG projects to his farm?”
Abdulmumin further alleged that a duplex in highbrow Panama crescent of Maitama is regularly used by the Speaker to host night parties after its recent renovation with tax payers funds.
He added that several brand new exotic cars were taken out of the building Friday morning.

Meanwhile the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) has petitioned the EFCC demanding investigation of Abdulmumin for his alleged involvement in ten contracts awarded by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons in September 2014.

A copy of the petition obtained by THISDAY noted that all ten contracts were suspiciously awarded to five companies on the same day for Kano state. The petition added that Abdulmumin was copied all the letters of award of the contracts.
“No other House of Representatives member or Senator from Kano state was copied. How did Hon. Fibrin come to be copied.”

THISDAY contacted the President of the NYCN, Ikenga Chinyere, to explain why the petition was just sent to the EFCC on July 29, 2016, over a matter that happened two years ago.

“We have been working on it before now, we would still present others against him in the coming days,” he said in a telephone conversation.
He further accused Abdulmumin of padding the budget with the contracts as Chairman of the House Committee on Finance in the seventh assembly.

“The man is trying to destroy the parliament and painting others black, when in actual fact he is the one who has been in the habit of padding,” he said.