The high point of the proceedings last week at the House of Representatives was the suspension of the former chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation. Damilola Oyedele reports that Abdulmumin Jibrin’s suspension is hardly surprising
If Abdulmumin Jibrin had escaped the suspension hammer, it would have come as a huge surprise. Many Nigerians continue to support his cause as a self-acclaimed anti-corruption crusader, or #AccidentalActivist, the hash tag with which he now signs off on Twitter, following his revelations about alleged improprieties by the leadership of the House of Representatives regarding the 2016 budget. But for the purpose of clarity, the House did not suspend him for the budget padding allegations he levelled against its principal officers, but for breach of the rights of members, through his blanket statements describing lawmakers as collectively corrupt.
On Wednesday, the House adopted the recommendation of its Ethics and Privileges Committee, which had been mandated to look into allegations of breach of the provision of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, and sundry acts of misconduct.
The committee recommended that Jibrin be suspended for 180 legislative sitting days in the first instance.
“Jibrin is required to tender a formal written apology to the House, prior to his future resumption of duties in the House…Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin should be barred from positions of responsibility in the House until the end of the 8th Assembly,” the report read.
The committee headed by Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai based its recommendations on certain findings, some of which were that his statements made in the mainstream and social media were broad, sweeping, and without proof, and were therefore injurious, scandalous and denigrating to the House as an institution.
“Those statements taken individually and collectively serve to bring down the image of the generality of members of the House in the estimation of members of the public, thereby subjecting the House to public opprobrium,” the committee said.
The committee also noted that Jibrin failed to appear before it to defend himself in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, which guarantees fair hearing.
“Further, the committee finds that Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin breached the practices, precedents and usages of the House of Representatives in that the House has established procedure for expressing and redressing grievances which he didn’t follow.”
The embattled lawmaker would be out for at least a year, as there are 181 legislative days per annum. By implication, Jibrin would not be able to enter the National Assembly in his capacity as a lawmaker. His salaries and emoluments and those of his aides would also be stopped with immediate effect, while his office in the lower chamber has already been sealed off.
Genesis of the Crisis
The crisis started immediately after the removal of Jibrin as appropriation committee chairman, just before the House embarked on its annual summer recess. The Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had announced that Jibrin had approached him to tender his resignation following issues relating to the handling of the 2016 budget. Dogara, however, noted that a decision had already been reached to remove the lawmaker.
Many political watchers had faulted Dogara, saying he should not have made the announcement in a manner that seemed intended to humiliate his erstwhile ally. Initially, Jibrin had accepted his fate, before making a U-turn and unleashing a tirade of allegations against Dogara and three other principal officers of the House.
In various interviews and press statements using several media platforms, Jibrin told stories of how Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Doguwa, and Minority Leader Leo Ogor cornered N40 billion out of N100 billion meant for constituency projects. He also alleged that nine chairmen of standing committees made “senseless insertions” into the 2016 budget.
Jibrin made a show of his visits to the anti-corruption agencies and the police to submit petitions against those he mentioned. In several of his statements, he made sweeping comments about the House in its entirety, accusing the body of systemic corruption, money laundering and other vices.
On resumption, tension was high in the House. Many Nigerians wondered how the House would manage the scandal that has smeared it in the eyes of the public.
Moving the motion for the investigation of Jibrin, the chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, completely stayed away from any issues on the budget padding scandal, concentrating on the blanket statements made against the House as body.
In his motion, Orker-Jev collated some of the blanket statements culled from newspapers and Jibrin’s television appearances, which 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.”
The others are, “It is a known fact that the legislative investigation is used as an event to extort money on 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.”
The motion accused Jibrin 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 spokesperson of the House, Hon. Namdas Abdulrazak, at a briefing recently had said the allegations against the Speaker and the other principal officers were already being looked into by the anti-graft agencies, which were petitioned by Jibrin.
Jibrin is not taking his suspension lying down. He disclosed that his lawyer, Femi Falana, was taking appropriate actions against the House.
The lawmaker has, however, stepped up his anti-corruption crusade, particularly, through the social media. He has also written to the principal officers of the House demanding details of the running costs they received since they joined the National Assembly.
QUOTE: Jibrin is not taking his suspension lying down. He disclosed that his lawyer was taking appropriate actions against the House. The lawmaker has stepped up his anti-corruption crusade, particularly, through the social media