The House of Representatives resumed recently. Like a ghost, the spirit of the padding scandal is yet haunting the House. During the break, a lot of moves were made by both sides (those supporting the padding and the establishment and those opposed to the padding scam) in order to consolidate their various positions.
In what appeared like pursuing the allegation to a conclusive end, the House had referred the matter to the Ethics and Privileges Committee headed by Hon Ossai Nicolas Ossai.
Fearing that he would not get justice from the committee, the whistle-blower, Dr Abdulmumuni Jibrin stayed away from the committee citing the bias of many members of the committee, some of whom had made comments criticising him (Jibrin) for the embarrassing exposè he gave the House.
Jubrin, on his part, had approached the court to grant an injunction forbidding the House from suspending him.
The Ethics and Privileges Committee concluded the sitting without Jibrin showing up.
Expectedly, the committee penultimate Wednesday, made far-reaching recommendations against Jibrin, chief of which being his suspension from 180 legislative sittings, as well as being barred from holding any position of responsibility in the eight assembly.
I believe that no matter the case Jibrin had against the leadership of the House, his refusal to appear before the panel did him in. Relying wholly on a lawsuit he had filed was not enough reason to boycott the committee, especially as his initial condition for appearing before the committee (conduct the sitting in the open) was met by the House committee.
I am not convinced that the decision to shun the committee was the best in the circumstance. He had the ample opportunity to prove his weighty allegations before the whole world, but he blew the chance. He forgot the legal aphorism that the burden of proof lies on he who alleges. No matter how biased the members of the Ethics and Privileges Committee might have been, a well-laid out case of Jibrin would have set the committee against all Nigerians who would have had the chance to see through whatever antics the committee was about to play. But Jibrin’s refusal to appear before the committee obfuscated his case. Yet, he is even spilling more beans by alleging that many investigative sittings organised by the House are fraudulently done. Now Nigerians would be wondering if the allegations are/were frivolous and fictitious, especially as he had been part of the same system he is lambasting now, for over five years.
As it stands, the battle will shift to the court. The direction and dimension of court cases are not only easy to determine, no one knows how long they can drag.
I can guess that Jibrin’s refusal to appear before the committee might have also made him lose the few supporters he had in the House, and that explains why the motion to suspend him was overwhelming, as not a single voice opposed it on the floor of the Green chamber.
Anyone who watched the drama of the distribution of “#I-stand-with-Dogara” muffler in the House the previous week would understand that the House will not waste time to clamp Jibrin between the hammer and the anvil. His office has been sealed off after the suspension.
Suspending Jibrin is not likely to silence the decibel of the accusation.
Indeed, many would believe that the suspension of Jibrin is aimed at sweeping the whole padding saga under the carpet.
The suspension of Jibrin, nonetheless, does not invalidate the allegations made and so they deserve to be creditably cleared by all those involved especially the quartet led by Speaker Dogara.
It is not enough to dismiss the details of the allegations as mere mischief. Nigerians need to be convinced beyond political grandstanding and shenanigan that the over 2000 projects worth N40 billion said to have been engrafted into the budget by the House leadership is not true.
We need to be convinced that the Nasarawa water project, for instance, was not actually diverted to Dogara’s farm.
Beyond the rave talk about padding, is the more critical question of the content of the said padding itself. A close look will show that most of the projects so engrafted into the budget are not projects that will improve the livelihood of the people or grow the economy that is now in dire straits.
For instance of what national economic importance is a community town hall? Or what lasting value does a television viewing centre create for the people?
Last August 6, I had written that,
“It is bad enough that these lawmakers have appropriated the functions of the executive by also drawing up their own budget, yet it is worse when you hear that most of these so-called constituency projects are not projects that will improve the overall development index of Nigeria. Or how shall we justify the use of federal government fund to build a community town hall, or market or television viewing centre in a community? Very annoying cases of abuse of privileges. It also shows the vacuous mental capacity of many of the lawmakers. Town hall my foot!”
All said, Dogara and co. must come clean. They must be seen to be above board. This is a new era. They cannot continue in the same ways of the past which put us all in the mesh of mess we are in today. All eyes are on the House and its ways, as I know the last salvo may not have been fired from Jibrin’s armoury.