Padding? What Does That Mean? Dogara Weighs in

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Tobi Soniyi and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

Essentially, toeing parliamentary line, which says it can alter, change, subtract and add to the budget presented to it by the executive before passage, the Speaker of House Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara friday weighed in on the raging budget padding controversy that has set the house leadership on war path in the last two weeks after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. It was, however, not clear if the allegation of 2016 budget-padding currently rocking the lower house was discussed as Dogara refused to reveal the purpose of his visit to the villa.

Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, Dogara reiterated his earlier statement that he would not resign over the budget-padding allegation.
The speaker, who arrived at the State House around 2:25Spm, went straight into the president’s office.

He came out of the president’s office at exactly 2:58 pm, feigning ignorance of what budget-padding was all about.

When approached by State House Correspondents, Dogara simply said: “I am a lawyer and have been a legislator for a while. I never knew of an offence called budget padding.”
The speaker said budget padding was not an offence in Nigerian law.
He also said since he had not committed any offence, the question of him resigning “does not even arise.”

Asked what informed his visit, he said: “I can’t come and see my president? Do I need any reason to come and see my president? It’s a private visit.

Below is Dogara’s encounter with the State House Correspondents:
Was the issue of alleged budget-padding discussed during your meeting with Buhari?
What is budget-padding?
The language emanated from your chambers?
I don’t know, educate me, I am a lawyer and the Speaker and I have never heard of the word padding, what does padding mean?
Your former chairman of appropriation is saying you padded the budget?
Ask him, he who alleges must prove, that’s the law in Nigeria
Are you not going to defend yourself?
Am I before a court?
There are people saying you should reconvene the House before September resumption time and step aside for thorough investigations?
We have rules and regulations, this is not a mock institution, we operate by rules and we will follow the rules
Will you resign?
Resign for what, for what?
On this allegations?
What is the allegation?
That you and some members of the leadership padded the budget?
What is padding? You haven’t told me. Ask Jibrin what is padding? For me, I studied law and I have been in the legislature and all this period I have never heard of the word padding being an offence under any law, if I don’t know, you are the media. Research the law and let me know
Are you worried?
Worried for what? Worried over nothing, why should I be worried? As far as I am concerned, I am not worried over anything

Will there be sanctions for Jibrin?
I am not the chairman of ethics committee of the House so I wouldn’t know and I don’t know what padding means.

Lawmaker Advocates Equal Allocation for Constituency Projects
In a related development, the lawmaker representing Warri Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Daniel Reyeneiju (Delta PDP) has called for equal monetary allocation to all lawmakers for their constituency projects.

This, he said, was necessary, in the face of reported padding of the 2016 budget and the crises it is generating, particularly in the lower chamber.

Reyeneiju, in a telephone interview with THISDAY friday, described the crises as unfortunate, painful, and avoidable.