Abdulmumin: Ethics Committee Begins Sittings, Falana Demands Suspension of Hearing

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  His utterances defames us collectively, says witness

By Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges mandated to investigate allegation of breaches of privileges and sundry acts of misconduct against the sacked Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumin began its sitting on Friday.

However, Mr. Femi Falana has written to Speaker Yakubu  Dogara, demanding the suspension of the hearing as the matter was already in court. The embattled lawmaker had recently sued the House of Representatives seeking an order restraining his suspension, or attempting to suspend or remove him from his position as member representing his constituency.

 The House on Wednesday had voted to refer the matter to the Ethics Committee, following a motion which accused Abdulmumin of breach of privileges of the House of Representatives. breach of privileges of members of the House, breach of the practices, precedents and usages of the House of Representatives, and sundry acts of misconduct against the members and institution of the House and the National Assembly, breach of the provision of the legislatives houses (powers and privileges) Act.

The motion, sponsored by the Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, recommended suspension of a period not less than six months

Orker-Jev, who was key witness, said Abdulmumin’s utterances  had maligned and defamed the House, and had incited the public against the members.

He cited several of the utterances captured on the pages of newspapers to include : “As it stands today, these corrupt elements have infected the House, making the institution a hub of systemic corruption. I repeat, there is massive individual and systemic corruption in the House of Representatives. And all Nigerians have a responsibility to avail themselves of this rare opportunity to flush out corruption in the House.” “It is a known fact that the legislative investigation is used as an even to extort
money on an organised crimes aided and abetted by Mr. Speaker,” and “I dare say corruption in the House of Representatives is more than that of the Executive and Judiciary combined.”

Orker-Jev said he and other colleagues had been inundated with calls from members of the public and embarrassed on allegations that he noted were made in flagrant disregard for their authenticity.

“There is nothing like budget padding as far as the constitution is concerned…His actions have defamed everyone. It means when we go on oversight, people would say these thieves have come again. We need to redeem our image,” he said.

Speaking at the opening, the committee Chairman, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, gave the assurance that committee would be objective and follow due process as outlined in the Standing Rules of the House.

“I have conferred with my colleagues and we have decided that since Nigerians are keenly interested in this matter, the press is allowed to cover,” he said.

Abdulmumin is scheduled to appear on Monday at 12 noon.

The embattled lawmaker has said he would only appear before the committee on condition that civil society organisations, labour unions, student groups and the public were allowed to observe proceedings.

 Abdulmumin, following his removal, had accused Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Minority Whip Leo Ogor, and nine chairmen of standing committees, of making senseless insertions into the 2016 budget, and corrupt practices. He further accused the four principal officers of allocating to themselves N40 billion out of the N100 billion allocated to the National Assembly for constituency projects.

In a letter by his chambers: Falana & Falana Chambers, also signed by three other solicitors, Falana cited Order 9 Rule 5 of the Standing Rules of the House which states that reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision was pending, in such a way as might, in the Speaker’s  opinion, prejudice the interest of parties thereto.

The originating processes in the said suit had been served on the House, the letter dated September 23, 2016, noted.

“…your action in the circumstances is inconsistent with the practice and procedure of the House of Representatives and long standing tradition of not entertaining any debate on a subject matter that sub-judice  by virtue of the provisions of Order 9 Rule 5 of the Standing Order of the House of Representatives,” it read.

“It is hoped that you will not compel us to embark on contempt proceedings in respect of this matter,” the letter added.

Abdulmumin on Friday wrote separate letters to the Speaker of the House, and Chairman of the Ethics Committee.

In his strongly worded letter to the Speaker, Abdulmumin accused him of successfully dragging all 360 members into the allegations of corruption.

“Every right-thinking person knows that you were acting a shameful script by referring the matter to the Ethics Committee so that you can conveniently be a judge in your own case. You didn’t even refer the allegations against you to the Ethics Committee but rather chose to refer a so-called “breach of privilege of members” in a clear attempt to force members to carry your cross through a well-orchestrated blackmail,” the letter read.

Abdulmumin added that Dogara’s call to President Muhammadu Buhari to address a joint sitting of the National Assembly over the economic recession was simply a ploy to shore up his (Dogara) battered reputation and credibility.

In his letter to Ossai, Abdulmumin re-emphasised his lack of confidence in the ability of the committee to be impartial.

The letter reads in part:

“Mr Chairman, your letter clearly indicates that mischief is in the offing. You are inviting an accused to appear before you without telling him his offense. You did not state how I breached the privileges of the House and Members. You did not state the name of which Member’s privileges I breached so that I can take on the Member or Members and see if they can stand corruption test. You did not state the precedents and practices that I breached. You did not state what I did that amounted to misconduct so even if I intend to attend, I can know what exactly I am being accused of and come prepared.

“You also did not find it worthy to investigate the grievous allegations I made against Mr Speaker and few others or even why the Speaker is yet to address all the allegations I made against him and submit himself to the security and anti-graft agencies to clear his name two months after I submitted my petitions,” Abdulmumin added.