Budget Padding: Police Panel Re-Invites Hon Jibrin For Questioning

The Police Special Investigation Panel (SIP) has re-invited former House of Representatives’ Appropriation Committee chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin for questioning over his petition on alleged padding.
The panel, it was learnt, wants him to clear some grey areas in the petition
Jibrin is expected to appear before the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Amodu Ali-led panel either today or on Monday.
The SIP has shifted the planned interrogation of Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuff Lasun , Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor till after its session with Jibrin.
It was learnt that the panel will communicate a new date to the four principal officers, who were earlier given a date for today.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the panel observed some gaps in Jibrin’s petition.
A top source in the police said: “Having gone through the petition, the panel has discovered that more documents are required to be able to isolate allegations which the four principal officers will respond to.
“The SIP on Thursday (yesterday) invited Jibrin to bring more documents to fill in some gaps in our profiling of his petition.
“We expect Jibrin to be with us either on Friday (today) or on Monday. After getting all documents, we will then formally quiz Jibrin on record.
“We have shifted the interaction with the principal officers until we are done with Jibrin. So, the invitation which they received has been postponed.
“A new date will be communicated to the principal officers.
“If you look at Jibrin’s activities after submitting the petition, he has been making more revelations. New investigative clues have come up from his comments on his tweeter handle and in interviews that granted. We have different figures to investigate which include: N284billion, N90billion, N40billion and N20billion, the amount bandied at various times.
“The list of suspects has also been growing on a daily basis. Jibrin has to appear before the panel to assist it to streamline all the allegations and the suspects.
Jibrin had alleged that about 2,000 projects worth N284billion were “inserted” into the 2016 budget.
He insisted that Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa and Ogor must resign for “unfettered” investigation into the budget scam.
Jibrin said: “I strongly believe with every conviction that in cleaning up the budgeting system and considering what transpired during 2016 budget, which I have all the facts and documents Speaker Dogara, Deputy Speaker Lasun, Whip Doguwa and Minority Leader, Ogor should resign.

Security Operatives Seal Off House Appropriation Committee Secretariat

The Clerk of the Committee on Appropriation, Dr. Abel Ochigbo, and his staff could not access the secretariat of the committee yesterday as security agents prevented them from doing so.

Yesterday’s development followed the face off between the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and the erstwhile Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumin, over allegations of budget padding leveled by the latter against the speaker, key leaders of the House and some committee chairmen.

The denial of access implied that the Secretariat of the committee may have been sealed off as claimed by Abdulmumin through his twitter handle earlier on Saturday.
Abdulmumin had accused Speaker Dogara of ordering the computers in the Committee’s secretariat be moved to his office in a view to tapering with evidence.

The lawmaker had also alleged that there was an attempt to break into his office, Rm 1.05.
In one of his tweets on Saturday, he said: “On the request of my lawyers, the security agencies have promptly provided protection for the appropriation secretariat, my office and house.”

Ochigbo, fielding questions from journalists, said contrary to his claim, no computer or document in the secretariat had been removed. He also said that the secretariat had not been sealed as claimed.

But attempt by him to access the secretariat at about 4.30pm on Saturday so as to prove that it had not been sealed failed as security operatives denied him access.
“Nothing is wrong with the secretariat, everything is intact in the secretariat.

The thinking is that the status quo should be maintained. Of course I can’t instruct them to open the doors by force. So please bear with us because instead of keeping you here I feel I should make this statement. They are safeguarding the office,” he told journalist after he was prevented from accessing the secretariat.

Ochigbo also claimed that no staff had been harassed to intimidated.
In a letter addressed to the Acting Clerk of the National Assembly, he further said: “I write to confirm that the committee secretariat is intact and has not been threatened in any way. All records are also in tact and safe. Both hardware and software, in addition, our archival set up is properly kept and in order.

Furthermore, no staff in the secretariat of the committee has been subjected to any form of threat, intimidation or harassment from any quarter whatsoever. Any such reports along the lines of the above allegations should therefore be totally disregarded.”
Earlier the Chairman of the Appropriation Commitee, Hon. Mustapha Dawaki, told journalists that all the documents in the secretariat were intact, including computer hardware and software.

But as the budget saga continue to rage, Abdulmumin has not shown any sign that he would back down. At the weekend, he released several tweets threatening to disclose further details to buttress the allegations he made against the speaker and other key officers of the House. One of the tweets reads: “I will share with you the contents of my petition to the EFCC and ICPC in due course & shall return more shocking revelations…”

He noted that this was a defining moment in the struggle to cleanse the House and the first time a member would drag 12 of his colleagues to anti-graft agencies.

Apart from the speaker, deputy speaker, whip and minority whip, others listed in his petition to the EFCC and ICPC, according to him, include Chairman House Committee on Interior, Hon. Jagaba Adams; Chairman House Services Committee, Hon. Babanle Ila; Chairman Committee on Power, Hon. Dan Asuquo; Chairman Committee on Marine Transport, Hon. Mohammed Bago; Chairman Committee on Police, Hon. Haliru Jika; Chairman Committee on FCT, Hon. Herma Hembe; Chairman Committee on Higher Education, Hon. Zakari Mohammed; and Chairman Committee on Health, Hon. Chike Okafor.

Abdumumin said the case against them ranges from corrupt enrichment, abuse of office and public trust, living above means and massive movement of funds in budget. In another tweet, the lawmaker said: “I am confident that the EFCC and ICPC will effect the arrest of Speaker Dogara and the 11 others to commence prosecution in earnest.”

Insinuating that the speaker was using his office for personal gain, Abdulmumin in yet another tweet said: “Speaker Dogara has resorted to blame of so-called external forces, are those forces responsible for moving FG projects to his farm?”
Abdulmumin further alleged that a duplex in highbrow Panama crescent of Maitama is regularly used by the Speaker to host night parties after its recent renovation with tax payers funds.
He added that several brand new exotic cars were taken out of the building Friday morning.

Reps Call For Probe Of Dogara, Jibrin

A new alliance of lawmakers, called Transparency Group, which emerged in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, has said its call for sweeping investigation in the House is not driven by politics.
The House is facing its latest scandal after the appropriation chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who left office last week, revealed shocking details of alleged budget fraud against the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and other key members.
The new group weighed in on Wednesday demanding that both sides be investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC “We are not Gbajabiamila’s group,” the group said, referring to the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, who contested but lost the speakership election to Mr. Dogara.
“We are not Dogara’s group; and we are not Jibrin’s group,” the new group’s spokesperson, Mohammed Soba (APC-Kaduna) told PREMIUM TIMES on phone Wednesday night. “Our main purpose is that there is transparency in the House.”
Mr. Soba said the group would push for an emergency resumption of the House to address the “criminal matter” of “budget padding” which he said could not be investigated internally.
The budget scandal in the troubled House involves counter accusations of corrupt practices and breach of public trust, especially during 2016 budget passage process.
Mr. Jibrin says the speaker worked with the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; Whip, Alhassan Doguwa; and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, to embed fictitious projects into the budget.
The spokesperson of the House, Abdulrazaq Namdas, has denied the allegations against the individuals, and in turn accused Mr. Jibrin of corruption and blackmail.

The so-called Transparency Group said Mr. Namdas should stop defending Mr. Dogara through the institution of the House.
“Namdas should not speak on our behalf as far this controversy is concerned because the allegations are not made against the House. Jibrin’s allegations are directed at the Speaker and other Principal Officers,” Mr. Soba said.
“There is controversy over budget padding as a result of which chairman of appropriations committee was sacked, he was actually removed. Then he now came with allegations against the Speaker and some Principal Officers. So Dogara, the Speaker, is now using the House spokesman to speak on the issue against what Abdulmumin (Jibrin) is saying. And what we are saying Namdas should not.”
The group demanded “independent” investigation into what it said was a criminal offence against the Nigerian people.
The group said the House Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee was not fit to entertain the matter because its chairman and members are appointees of Mr. Dogara.
“We are demanding independent investigation into the allegations because this matter is purely criminal. Padding of the budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is criminal. So nobody should expect us to fold our arms to watch the appointees of the Speaker investigate the Speaker in the name of the Ethics and Privileges Committee,” Mr. Soba said.
Asked to clarify what he meant by “independent investigation”, he said, “investigation from outside the House, and replied “Yes!” When our correspondent suggested Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“The issue of the budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is beyond the House. It’s not an internal affairs of the House,” he added, opposing Ethics Committee Chairman, Nicholas Ossai’s position that the budget scandal remained an internal affair of the House.
Also, Mr. Ossai had argued that it was wrong to say National Assembly “padded” budget; rather, he said the legislators only “amended” appropriation bill (proposed budget) like any other bill.
Transparency Group says it has 113 members who are cooperating to “ask all those at the centre of the controversy to face the allegations in line with criminal justice system,” Mr. Soba said.
“Our next move is to put heat on the Speaker to reconvene the House immediately so that we discuss this issue of national importance. We then take decision on the floor of the House on what line of action to be taken,” said Mr. Soba.
Asked to give names of some members of the Transparency Group, he mentioned, Abubakar Adamu (APC-Niger); Bashir Babale (APC-Kano); Ayo Omidiran (APC-Osun), Rotimi Agunsoye (APC-Lagos).

National Assembly Backs Down On Budget Face-off

The chairman of the Appropriation committee of the Senate, Senator Danjuma Goje and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin, have appealed to their colleagues in the National Assembly to reopen discussion on the 2016 budget.

President Muhammadu Buhari, last week sent his observations and requests on the Appropriation Bill, as passed by the National Assembly, to the lawmakers.

In a jointly signed statement yesterday, Goje and Jibrin, said: “Given the foregoing, and all factors considered, we hereby state that we have had enough controversy over the 2016 budget.

“What is needful right now is a resolution of the differences and to that end, we call on our colleagues in the National Assembly to accede to the request by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, to have a second look at the details and make the necessary adjustments so that he can assent. This, in our opinion, should not go beyond this week.”

The committee chairmen regretted what they described as a deluge of misinformation, misrepresentation and innuendoes about the roles played by the appropriation committees in the two legislative chambers in the course of passing the controversial budget.

“Even though most of the allegations, especially those specifically levelled against the two of us, as chairmen of the committee, are unfounded, we intend to respond to them at the appropriate time.”

The statement went on: “For now, what we consider important is to resolve the impasse around the budget and get it assented to so that its implementation can begin in the interest of all Nigerians.

“However, we must put it on record that the details aggregated and transmitted to the executive are largely the inputs we received from the standing committees of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.”

The two lawmakers said consultations were already ongoing between the executive and the legislature on the document returned by President Buhari.

“A debate about who is right or wrong is unhelpful in the circumstance; and in any case, does not advance the cause of our country men and women whose interest we have been elected to serve.

“Nevertheless, we must commend President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara and the entire members of the National Assembly, members of the Federal Executive Council, the minister of Budget and the budget team for their cooperation even as we assure all Nigerians that we will do everything to protect and defend their interest, at all times,” the statement added.

Federal Executive Do Not Understand Their Budget – Hon Jibrin

Abdulmumin Jibrin, chairman of the federal house of representatives committee on appropriation, says Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transport, does not understand his budget.

Speaking in an interview with Channels Television, Jibrin said the executive arm of government does not even have a budget.

“Let me say this very straight, I do not believe that the executive arm of government really understands the document they sent to the national assembly, or they have even studied what we sent back to them,” he said.

“I have every reason to draw such a conclusion. In the first place, you saw all the confusion, from the point of preparing the budget to the controversy of bringing the budget to the national assembly, to accusations of trying to pull it out of the national assembly through subterranean means.

“Then again, the president bringing another version to the national assembly. And that very new version was what head of MDAs, ministers and the rest came to the national assembly to disown.

“So if you want to look at it from that angle, you’ll say they don’t even have a budget.”

Jubrin added that Ameachi was still arguing on Sunday over a budget he does not even understand, emphasising that Calabar-Lagos rail was never in the budget.

“When a statement come from that part of government, we should begin to think, do they even understand the document?

“Yesterday evening, the same minister of transport, was still arguing with speaker at the presidential villa, that the Calabar-Lagos rail was included in the budget.

“What does that tell you? It tells you that he doesn’t even understand his budget. We having a serious situation.

“Ordinarily, we would not have raised this issue in public, but this is an executive arm of government that never had a budget, had issues, blamed it on the legislative arm.”

He said some ministers were appointed weeks before the budget was prepared and tried change everything the permanent secretaries and civil servants had done.

Transmission Of Budget Highlights Alone Is Normal – NASS

The National Assembly Committee on Appropriation on Wednesday disclosed that there was nothing strange about sending highlights of the budget to the Presidency, promising to send the budget details in two weeks.

The Co-Chairman of Appropriation in National Assembly, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, who made this disclosure, added that it would be unpatriotic of National Assembly to forward the budget details without being extra-careful, meticulous and cautious in discharging its duties.‎

Jibrin said: “‎ In order for the nation to move forward and avoid stagnation of administrative processes, the tradition is that the bill is passed and forwarded to the Presidency for assent, while the lawmakers continue to work on the details.

“There is nothing abnormal about this practice and yet nothing abnormal about a President assenting a budget before or after seeing the details.

“In any case, the budget details is usual sent within a week or two after passing the budget.

“In view of the inconsistencies, errors, omissions and padding that characterised the 2016 Budget, it would be unpatriotic of the National Assembly to forward the budget details without being extra careful, meticulous and cautious in discharging its duties.

“This is to ensure we do not make same mistake that the executive made.

“The Appropriation committee needs to scrutinize the original proposal sent by the President vis-à-vis the reports of various Standing Committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate to arrive at a clean copy of the budget details.

“This will in no way affect any envelop already passed or the aggregate expenditure.

“The National Assembly holds the President in high esteem and will continue to support him.

“There were several instances where we demonstrated our support to the present administration in the past.
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“At the risk of sounding immodest, the National Assembly approved the President’s Special Advisers without hitch, approved ministerial nominees without rancour, approved Supplementary Budget without delay and displayed a rare show of patriotism in the receipt and passage of the 2016 MTEF and Budget.

“The 2016 Budget is the most challenging budget the National Assembly has ever passed in its recent history.

“Taking into account the many controversies and omissions, particularly in NYSC, Prisons, Pensions, personnel shortfalls, among others, the budget failed in many respects to connect with the policy thrust of the government.

“The National Assembly Appropriation Committees worked round the clock to address some of the omissions, bring up to date allocations in the budget towards the policy direction of Mr. President, particularly issues relating to security, anti-corruption and economic diversification.

“Given the foregoing efforts, it is therefore unfair for accusing fingers to be pointed at the National Assembly when the Presidency defers or delays assent to the budget.

“Nowhere in the world that a budget is presented to the Parliament and expect it to be passed warts and all without subjecting it to the rigours of scrutiny, debate and painstaking processes and inputs of the parliament.

“The National Assembly will continue to exercise its constitutional duty of appropriation to the latter.

“While recognising the President’s power to withhold assent, the National Assembly is also constitutionally required and has power to veto.

“But we don’t want that to happen and we don’t see this happening in this case.

“It is obvious that some fifth columnists are crying wolf where there is none and are also bent on creating friction and disharmony between the National Assembly and the Presidency.”