Budget Scandal: Clamour for Reconvening of House Heightens

  • Revealed: Abdulmumin insisted on Dogara’s ouster during meeting with APC leadership

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

There appears to be no end in sight to the crisis currently engulfing the House of Representatives over the alterations made in the 2016 budget, as several members are increasingly clamouring for an emergency reconvening of the lower legislative chamber, in order to deal with the budget scandal that has tarnished the image of the House.

The National Assembly is currently on recess and is not scheduled to reopen till September.

House sources told THISDAY that lawmakers who are in support of House Speaker Yakubu Dogara are in support of the chambers reopening, so that they can lay the matter to rest and pass a vote of confidence on the speaker and other principal officers of the lower chamber.

Anti-Dogara members are however pushing for the reconvening to begin impeachment proceedings against the speaker, even though they do not seem to have the numbers to oust him.

The House has been embroiled in crisis following the removal of the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumini by Dogara.

Abdulmumini, employing a scorched earth policy after his ouster, accused Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor of allocating N40 billion to themselves out of the N100 billion appropriated for the National Assembly, and making “senseless insertions into the 2016 budget”.

He has also petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Nigeria Police Force, demanding the arrest and prosecution of the speaker, three principal officers, and 11 committee chairmen for corruption and abuse of their offices.

Speaking on the push for the reconvening of the House, an anti-Dogara member informed THISDAY that: “We want to try to bank on the fact that the several caucus meetings aimed at saving Dogara have not yielded much assurances for them. So we want to take advantage of the fact that people are disgruntled.”

THISDAY gathered from credible sources that a meeting of members seeking the reconvening of the House was held in Abuja on Tuesday night. While some members claimed that the number of those who attended was over 100, others said the number was well below that.

A lawmaker who attended the meeting, however, clarified that even though several members did not attend, they were aligned with the agenda of the meeting.

“Yes, debates at the meeting were heated as we wanted the House to reconvene for an executive session for different reasons. Those who attended cut across party and caucus lines,” the lawmaker from the North-central caucus revealed.

He, however, clarified that the bid to reconvene the House may be a difficult one, as several members are abroad on summer vacation.

The lawmaker, who is pro-Dogara also confirmed THISDAY’s report that some members were making demands for membership of so-clalled “plum” committees before agreeing to join others to pass a vote of confidence on Dogara.

“ Yes, it is true members are making demands, but that is negotiable, it is normal in politics. Dogara has more than 300 members comfortably on his side.

“What we would do is that those who have declared that they may support, we would take from those who are clearly opposing and give to them,” he explained.

Speaking with several members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), THISDAY deduced that the caucus might not be as united on the crisis as presented by Minority Leader Leo Ogor.
Some members who are still smarting over Ogor’s distribution of the slots he was granted for “plum” committee membership, are gearing to show their dissatisfaction with the window provided by this crisis.

A PDP member from the South-south said there was also dissatisfaction in the caucus, as it was not providing the necessary opposition in the APC-led House.

“It seems like the House is an All Progressives Congress (APC) House. Apart from a few issues, we have not opposed their policies. Even the ones which we have championed, such as the immunity clause amendment is actually for the benefit of the APC leaders,” the member said.

Another member said he would vote for Dogara to be impeached if it comes to that.
“If I have to vote, I think Dogara has to step aside. Yes the allegations have not been proven, but they should not have come up in the first instance.

“You do not need to prove an allegation before you step aside, because your character is being impugned as the presiding officer of such an institution that ordinarily should always come with clean hands.

“So you must step aside and say I am ready to be probed. It takes nothing from you if you are truly serving the country,” the lawmaker said.

He also held the view that all the principal officers were culpable in the allegations of budget alterations.

“All the principal officers should step aside. Even those that are not being mentioned – Gbajabiamila and others – they all inserted. Somebody has mentioned some of them, but others should mention the others involved.

“However, I see the principal officers as a team. Would anyone of them have just sat there, while the other principal officers were inserting? It is not possible,” the lawmaker added.

Abdulmumun Insists on Dogara’s Ouster

Meanwhile, details of the deadlocked meeting between the leadership of the APC and Dogara, and another one with Abdulmumini over the budget scandal have come to light.
The APC had invited both men for separate meetings in an attempt to diffuse the tension and reconcile them.

Sources told THISDAY that Abdulmumini at the meeting outlined the allegations against Dogara and the other principal officers, and also presented more damning allegations to the APC committee.
“They were shocked at some of the things that they heard,” an APC chieftain privy to the discussions at the meeting said.

The chieftain, who preferred anonymity, added that the APC committee demanded to know the way forward, and what could be done to placate him, Abdulmumini.
“He insisted that the speaker has to be removed,” the chieftain said, adding that the committee members assured him that they would consult with other stakeholders on his demand.

Zakari Challenges Abdulmumuni

But as Abdulmumuni continues to make mind-blowing allegations against his colleagues, the Chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education, Hon. Zakari Mohammed has disclosed that he warned Dogara against appointing Abdulmumini as the appropriation committee chairman.

Mohammed, who is one of the 11 committee chairmen fingered by Abdulmumini as having inserted 2,000 projects into the 2016 budget, said his position offended the embattled lawmaker.

“My offence has been my opposition to the choice of Jibrin as the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee. I believe he has not forgiven me for my incisive forewarning that the speaker will regret Jibrin’s appointment,” Mohammed said in a statement.

Mohammed, alongside the Chairman of the Committee on Interior, Hon. Jagaba Adams Jagaba, and the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Speaker, Hon. CID Maduabum, denied that they have been distributing $25,000 to each member of the House as inducement to sign the register for a vote of confidence on Dogara.

Abdulmumini, in a series of tweets wednesday morning alleged that each member was being induced with $25,000 to pass a vote of confidence on the speaker by Mohammed, Jagaba and Maduabum.
“I challenge Jibrin to come to equity with clean hands. Let him release any proof at his disposal to the public on the $25,000 bribery allegation.

“As far as I am concerned, Jibrin is obsessed by his latter day anti-corruption paranoia. The so-called bribe-for-vote of confidence exists only in his imagination.
“Once a member does not buy into his destructive agenda, such a person must be brought down,” Mohammed said.

“Why can’t Jibrin allow the law to take its course on the allegations before the police and anti-graft agencies? Recourse to self-help, name-calling, maligning of members of the House have revealed his personal agenda against me and some selected members of the House,” Mohammed said, adding that all accused persons were committed to defending all allegations against them.
Also, Jagaba, in a text message said: “Hon. Jibrin’s wrangling is that of an empty vessel that appears to be living under a genetic spell. I cannot continue to join issues with someone who has neither culture nor character.”

Maduabum, in a statement said Abdulmumini’s claim exists in his demented and diseased imagination.
“Drowning Abdulmumuni is desperately grasping at every straw in his deception, campaign of calamity, demagoguery and propaganda which he has unleashed on innocent public officers whose sole offence is that they fatally misjudged his instability of character and unsuitability to hold public office,” he said.

Abdulmumini, in a statement wednesday, refuted claims that he was being sponsored by external forces to distabilise the House and effect a change in its leadership.

“The worthless and laughable allegation is orchestrated by Speaker Dogara and his gang of thieves to discredit my unstoppable mission. No external forces in this matter. If there are any, they deserve commendation for sponsoring a struggle to wipe out corruption in the House.
“In any case, are the external forces responsible for the massive theft and abuse of office by Speaker Dogara and the 12 other members?” Abdulmumini asked.

“He (Dogara) will soon resort to religious blackmail, forgetting I was the one Muslim from North-west that spearheaded and mobilised resources for his election,” he added.
Abdulmumini expressed appreciation to the APC for what he said was their objectivity at the meeting on Tuesday.

“I will continue to cooperate with the party. But I stand by my allegations against Speaker Dogara and his corrupt gang of 12. We shall continue this struggle. There is no going back!!!”