Padded Budget: Obasanjo, Lawmakers in war of words
ABUJA — Sequel to the allegations of corrupt practices in the National Assembly, especially with regards to the padding of the 2016 budget in the House of Representatives, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, said the National Assembly was filled with rogues and armed robbers. Obasanjo’s comment elicited caustic responses from the legislators, who accused him of running a corrupt and killer regime that attempted tenure elongation, which they lawmakers scuttled.
The salvo came on a day the Senate described the fight between the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and embattled former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, as unnecessary and unfortunate, and urged the lower house not to wash its dirty linen in public. Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Pally Iriase, also, yesterday, threatened that the leadership of the House might drag Jibrin before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, asserting that if there was any padding of the budget, it was allegedly perpetrated by Jibrin, who handled the affairs of the budget. Abdumumuni Jubril (APC, Kano), who was hitherto Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, last Friday opened a can of worms on the padding of the 2016 budget by the lawmakers, implicating the Speaker, Yakubo Dogara, in the padding of the budget with over N40 billion. Why Buhari must be vigilant – Obasanjo Former President Obasanjo drew the first blood while fielding questions from State House Correspondents on the revelations in the House after meeting privately with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Obasanjo said the lawmakers had vindicated his earlier comments in 2012 that the National Assembly was populated by rogues and armed robbers. He urged Nigerians to vote credible people into the parliament, advising President Buhari to be wary of the lawmakers. He said: “Well, if you said that I have said it in the past and if they are people who didn’t believe what I said in the past, then you can now say that what has come out confirms what I said in the past, then you can say what I said in the past is what I will say now. “It’s not a question of investigation, we should get men and women of integrity into the place and the President should be very vigilant. Whatever should not pass should not pass.” Commenting on his mission, Obasanjo said he was in the Villa to deliver messages from Liberia, Gambia and Seychelles to President Buhari. “I am visiting this time because I have some messages for the President. Not too long ago, I was in Liberia and Gambia and I have messages these two countries will want me to deliver to the President. “Also, only yesterday, I came back from Seychelles Island where I attended this year’s Annual General Meeting of Africa Export Development Bank, and there are aspects of the proceedings that I think I should update the President,” he said. Obasanjo said travelling to different countries had educated him more. “Travelling is a good education, what you will learn about a country by visiting that country for two or three days you won’t learn by reading through books,” he said. Asked whether he intended to slow down, he said, “May God not allow you to slow down.” Don’t wash your dirty linen in public, Senate cautions Reps Meanwhile, the Senate, yesterday, cautioned the House of Representatives not to wash its dirty linen in public, describing the fight between the speaker, Yakubu Dogara and embattled former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, as unnecessary and unfortunate. According to the Senate, there was no padding of the 2016 budget as the National Assembly performed its constitutional role in working on the 2016 budget. What is happening in the House is unfortunate – Ndume Addressing journalists in Abuja on the budget controversy currently raging in the House of Representatives, Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, said if a lawmaker had some grievances, such complaints must be forwarded to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, through a petition, for subsequent action. Senator Ndume said: “I don’t want to say that there was budget padding and I don’t want to talk about something I really don’t know, but what is happening in the House of Representatives is just very unfortunate because we have processes and procedure of doing things in the National Assembly. “If somebody has an issue, he knows what to do, it is not supposed to be the press that is supposed to be where somebody would carry his grievances, but I think they are going to work on it. “I personally feel bad because I am part of them and I have been trying to reach out to both sides and we are working on that. There is nothing like budget padding. If it is the National Assembly that works on the budget, then you don’t call it padding because padding is an illegality. “But when you tinker and subtract, you are working on the budget, these are two different things. Padding is an irregularity. It’s not good for us to wash our dirty linen in public. “But if there are certain abnormalities in the budget and what transpired in the budget process, which is now an Appropriation Act, I think they know the right thing, we have a committee and if Jibrin is aggrieved, he writes a petition or whatever and that should be referred to Ethics and Privileges which can investigate.” Jibrin should be held responsible – Iriase Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Pally Iriase, said that if there was any padding in the budget, the Appropriation Committee Chairman, Jibrin, should be held accountable, since he handled the affairs of the budget discreetly. He said the House would have no choice but to drag Jibrin before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. He said the attempt by Jibrin to drag the speaker into the matter was laughable, asserting that it was a diversionary tactics by Jibrin to rubbish the integrity of the leadership of the House. Iriase, who represents Owan Federal constituency of Edo State, told journalists in Benin City: “Jibrin is rabble rousers, going by his antecedent, because he kept the details of the budget to himself for ulterior motive. “I consider that as a rabble rousing nature of Jibrin and should not be taken seriously. You know me, if you remove integrity from me, I am a nobody and I pride myself in integrity. “I could easily fold my arms and say he never mentioned me among the so called culprits. But as a Christian, I feel so bad when innocent, decent, honest people are being vilified by somebody who is the antithesis of what they are. “It is unfortunate that bad news is good news as far as the media is concerned, otherwise questions will be asked if somebody approached you to fly this kind of kite that Jibrin is flying. I read this morning that he has released another can of worm that some 10 chairmen of committees padded the budget with several hundreds of billions. What was your job? It was to see that what was presented was good enough for final passage. “This guy thinks he is smart and Nigerians should know who he is. What the House as a whole dealt with, is the line by line budget of all ministries, the details were kept away from the House by Jibrin, he alone knew the details. “I am able to say this because I had the opportunity to be in the joint committee of the National Assembly and executive to clean up the mess perpetrated by Jibrin’s Appropriation Committee and the greatest problem we had then was that we can’t see the holistic view of the budget until I shouted; this can be verified because all the members are alive. “The mess he is now referring to, which are no longer in the 2016 budget, are now history and he is dishing out those messy history which had been cleaned up. When did he realise all these he is talking about? “You created the mess. He was fingered as wanting the budget to be a personal budget of his. How come he was able to gleefully go to channel TV in the heady days when the President first withheld ascent that wanted to take the Buhari’s government to the cleaners by accusing him of bringing unworkable budget which, according to him, they worked hard to make sense out of it? This is the same person talking because they changed him as committee chairman? “There are many other things that we rather want to keep quiet about for the sake of not going libellous in the eyes of the public but if he does not keep quiet, because some of us pride ourselves in our integrity and as principal officer of the House, I feel bad that the same chairman that bungled an assignment put under him is now hoping he could bring down the roof. “But if he does not take time, we will drag him before the EFCC so he can explain better what happened. “Dogara is an upright leader and will never be involved in such rubbish he is saying and from day one, we knew that Jibrin was not sincere. But he should take time, else we will take drastic action that he will live to regret.” We planned to resign if Jibrin wasn’t removed —Edionwele Some members of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, yesterday, said they mounted pressure on Speaker Dogara, to remove Jibrin. Speaking to Vanguard, a member, Joseph Edionwele, who represents Edo State on the committee, said the former Chairman of the Committee was running a one-man-affair without carrying members of the committee along. He said members of the committee were highly disappointed, adding: “We were the ones that put pressure on the speaker. Even as appropriations committee members, we saw the budget the way other members saw it, it was a one-man-affair and we confronted him.” Our leaders didn’t take budget to a secret location – Ikpeazu Also speaking, Rep Linda Ikpeazu representing Anambra State on the committee denied allegation that the House leadership took the budget to a secret place as alleged by the former chairman. She said that that after the executive submitted the budget proposal to the National Assembly, it was the responsibility of the lawmakers to ensure that projects were spread across a geopolitical zones and constituencies. Ikpeazu said: “As far as I am concerned, the allegation is actually quite pedestrian to tell you the truth. Even in the federal executive, they don’t have the same projects everywhere in all the geopolitical zones. What we should do in the next budget is to accommodate areas that were not accommodated in this year’s budget.”