Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on Saturday denied the allegations of fraud and abuse of office levelled against him by the erstwhile chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumini. It was his first direct response to the accusation that he supervised the padding of the 2016 budget with fraudulent projects on purpose to corruptly enrich himself and other accomplices. In a brief statement yesterday countering the claims by Abdulmumin, his former close ally, Dogara said no money was embezzled during the preparation of this year’s budget and he did not engage in any underhand dealings.
Dogara and Abdulmumin have been engaged in a confrontation since the latter’s removal as chairman of the appropriation committee on July 20 owing to alleged abuse of the budget process. Seemingly employing a scorched earth policy, after his ouster, Abdulmumin accused Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan 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”.
The Kano-born lawmaker, whose removal as head of the appropriation committee was, allegedly, hinged on an unlawful insertion of constituency projects worth over N4 billion into the 2016 budget, also petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, and the Nigeria Police. He demanded the arrest and prosecution of the speaker, the three principal officers, and 10 committee chairmen for alleged corruption and abuse of office.
Dogara had at different fora in the last two weeks largely parried questions about the budget padding allegations and refrained from making any categorical statement denying the charges.
But in a statement yesterday by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, Dogara said there was no act of corruption by him during and after the preparation of the 2016 budget.
The statement said the speaker wished to “reiterate and assure all Nigerians that no kobo belonging to Nigeria has been misappropriated, stolen or lost in this budget saga.
“Hon. Yakubu Dogara further wishes to deny all other allegations of a personal nature heaped on him by Hon. Jibrin as they are fictional and scandalous untruths and falsehoods which will be dealt with at the appropriate fora and time.”
Dogara also urged Nigerians to be vigilant with respect to the implementation of this year’s budget to ensure that they were not short-changed. He noted that his statements regarding the scandal had been misconstrued to mean arrogance, insensitivity, and being above the law.
Dogara had, among other insinuations, been alleged to have said budget padding was not a crime, and that the anti-graft agencies could not investigate or prosecute lawmakers for doing their job.
However, the statement clarified, “The Speaker’s assertion was and remains that nothing untoward had been done by the House and, indeed, the National Assembly with respect to the 2016 budget. He did not say or mean that he is above the laws of the land or that he is shielded by the law or has immunity for any infractions of the law.
“We wish to appeal to the public for patience as the truth, which will vindicate the innocent in this unfortunate saga, will unfold sooner than later.”
Meanwhile Abdulmumin has refused to comment on reports that the EFCC has resuscitated a money laundering case against him, leading him to seek court protection to prevent his arrest.
Abdulmumin and his firm, Green Forest Investment Ltd, a former governor of Nassarawa State, Mr. Aliyu Akwe Doma, and seven others had been charged with the laundering of stolen state funds totalling over N15 billion in October 2011. But in December 2012, the EFCC removed his name from its amended charges.
THISDAY sought his reaction to the fraud case, but he was silent on the issue. He, however, released a statement in which he called on Dogara to step aside and allow for internal and external investigations. Abdulmumin said this was necessary to ensure “various reforms by the new Speaker can commence to restore the battered image of the House.”
Abdulmumin also urged Dogara to explain his role in “the fraudulent multi-billion naira cars contract by his fronts as chairman, House Services Committee (in the seventh assembly).” He alleged that the Speaker had been involved in fraudulent contracts and money laundering in the House of Representatives since 2007.
“With the massive amount being moved from the House accounts on Dogara’s instruction, I hope he will be arrested before he steals everything,” Abdulmumini stated.