THE HOUSE AND THE JIBRIN AFFAIR

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The leadership of the House and Jibrin should find mutual accommodation in a dialogue to resolve the issues

It is no longer news that the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who has been making series of damaging allegations against some principal officers, is now on suspension. In handing down a penalty to Jibrin for sundry legislative misconducts, the House last week took the extreme step of suspending him for a lengthy period of 180 working days. He will receive no salaries or allowances while the suspension lasts.

We believe that the action of the House is severe, almost vindictive, and likely to induce Jibrin to embark on desperate measures in the name of self preservation. This is already evident in the embattled lawmaker’s actions, utterances and releases to the media, following that decision. And to the extent that the imbroglio will neither strengthen faith in our democracy nor attract investors, we urge the leadership of the House and Jibrin to find mutual accommodation in a dialogue that would necessitate a calm presentation of facts so that the contending issues could be resolved.

However, this is not to say that the agencies of government charged with investigating serious allegations, such as have been raised, should not do their job of getting to the bottom of it all. What we deplore is the spirited recriminations that undermine the order that we all need in an already chaotic environment. Indeed, the message unwittingly being sent out is that our lawmakers almost always engage in reckless, unlawful, improper and questionable activities in promotion of self interest. This is an issue that must be looked into.

It is all the more important against the background that while there has been much rhetoric by the current administration about eliminating waste in government, Nigerians can see nothing, so far, to suggest any seriousness on that front. The fleet of vehicles that needlessly accompany government functionaries on a regular basis has not reduced nor is there any sign of frugality in the management of public utilities. In a time of recession, many public officials are actually putting new margins of frills to their unlawful privileges.

As we have repeatedly argued, the current fight against corruption ignores the link between distortion of values and abuse of, or general disregard, for extant rules. Yet when this manifests in financial matters, we call it corruption of financial resource management, because it comes from the primary fact that once rules are ignored, all templates lose their validity; submitting to collusion and arbitrary exercise of discretion.

We call particular attention to the budgeting process and the reward system. If there is anything that the allegations by Hon. Jibrin have shown, it is that there has merely been a relocation of the various seats of abuse, rather than the elimination of systemic, process and procedural corruption in the system.

Admitting the full scope of corruption and exposing the soft underbelly of extant practices that fuel abuses and strengthen the life wire of financial misconduct are necessary preambles to a sustainable solution. And it is for that reason that we believe the authorities should not miss the opportunity offered by the crisis in the House of Representatives, even if what we have are just mere allegations.

As an insider who knows how the system can be easily abused, based on his experience first as Chair of the Finance Committee (2003 – 2007) and lately as chair of the appropriations committee, the testimonies of Hon. Jibrin will be invaluable to any serious efforts to tackle corruption in the public space. That then explains why we believe that how the current House of Representatives crisis is resolved will be an index of how serious the Buhari government is in dealing with corruption in a sustainable manner.