Padded budget: 100 Reps want Dogara, Lasun, others prosecuted
ABUJA — Members of the House of Representatives, under aegis of Transparency Group, yesterday, told the anti-graft agencies to wade into alleged padding of the 2016 budget by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; his deputy, Yusuf Lasun; Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa, and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, and ensure credible investigation.
The group also claimed that it had collected signatures from about 100 members of the House, cutting across the six geopolitical zones of the country and from different political parties, dissociating themselves from the media briefing by the chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, saying the allegations had nothing to do with the entire House. This is as Speaker Dogara gave the embattled former Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, seven days ultimatum to retract the libellous allegations against him or face legal battle. Dogara, in a letter to Jibrin, through his counsel, Joash Ojo Amupitan, asked Jibrin to retract the alleged libellous allegations against him and some other principal officers of the House and also tender an unreserved apology or be ready to face legal action. However, Jibrin has dared Dogara to do his worst and declared his readiness to meet him in court. The letter, entitled: Request for a retraction and an apology of a libellous press statement issued by you on Monday 25th July 2016, noted that the claims of the former Appropriations Committee chairman, who was recently removed as chairman, had accused Dogara of corruption and abuse of office. The speaker claimed that the allegation was aimed at tarnishing his image at home and abroad and was a clear case of libel. He said: “By the said publication and without putting to the public any shred of evidence, our client is portrayed as a criminal, corrupt, dishonest, fraudulent, dishonourable and unfit to hold the position of Speaker of House of Representatives. “Our client’s reputation has further been brought down in the estimation of right thinking members of the society and he has been thrown into public opprobrium, odium, scorn and ridicule. “Consequently, we consider your publication on the matter as not only libellous but made in bad faith; an act of vendetta, owing to your recent removal as the chairman of House Committee on Appropriation. “The said publication is also aimed at causing disaffection between Nigerians and members of the House of Representatives. “Sequel to the above, we have to request you to submit immediately to us a clear and unqualified apology and retraction of the publication in an equally conspicuous position in all the print and electronic media where the publication appeared. “Take notice that in the event of your failure/refusal to comply with the above mentioned demands within seven days of your receipt of this letter, we have further instructions to institute a suit against you in a court of law.” Prosecute speaker, affected leaders —TG But the Transparency Group, TG, which claimed to be over 100 members, insisted that the speaker and the affected principal officers should be prosecuted. The group specifically urged relevant security and anti-corruption agencies to probe all the parties mentioned in the scandal, including staff of Appropriations Committee and Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, involved in the budgetary process, with a view to unravelling and nip in the bud their criminal tendencies. Spokesperson of the group, Muhammad Musa Soba, APC-Kaduna and five other lawmakers, who claimed to be members of the publicity committee of the group, frowned on Speaker Dogara’s alleged lackadaisical attitude towards the earlier demand to sack Jibrin, who they accused of having overriding interest on the budget. According to the statement read by Musa Soba, the group said: “We are a group of concerned members of the House of Representatives whose membership cuts across the six geopolitical zones, irrespective of party affiliation under the name “Transparency Group” that is worried about the recent media allegations and counter-allegations between Abdulmumin Jibrin and some principal officers of the House over padding of the 2016 budget. “While we do not hold brief for Jibrin and we do not claim to be speaking for the entire House, we are of the view that Abdulrazak Namdas has no mandate of the Honourable House to speak on its behalf on the allegations made by Jibrin against some principal and presiding officers of the House (speaker and deputy speaker). “The allegations against the officers mentioned were not allegations against the entire House but against the mentioned officers of the House in their individual capacity and as such, they can only speak for themselves through their respective spokespersons not through the spokesman of the entire House. “Accordingly, we, hereby, dissociate ourselves from all statements made by Namdas in respect of the budget padding controversy. Allegations ‘ve rubbished Buhari’s anti-graft crusade —Afenifere Speaking on the issue, yesterday, the Pan Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, said the allegation of padding of the 2016 budget rocking the House of Representatives had rubbished the anti-corruption crusade of the present administration. It equally called for a review of the present revenue allocation formula and asked the Federal Government to stop being a money lender to states. Rising from its monthly meeting at Akure, the country home of its National Leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the group described the happening in the Green Chamber as scandalous. In a communique read by its spokesman Yinka Odumakin, the group said: “We are miffed that in the midst of anti-corruption going on, people still have the courage to be engaging in this kind of corrupt activities. “This has reinforced our long-held view that treating the symptoms of corruption without dealing with it as a whole will not achieve much because if the incentive in town that people have to steal money, no matter the corruption you are fighting, people will still continue to do this kind of thing; and this is what we have seen in this budget padding. Padders must be brought to book —Ikokwu Speaking in a similar manner, Second Republic politician and a member of Ime-obi (inner caucus) of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Guy Ikokwu, said the culprits in the budget padding saga must be brought to book. He said: “The country supports President Buhari’s anti-corruption war but it should be wholesome and not selective. Those who padded the budget to the tune of N481 billion in the National Assembly should be tried. If the Federal Government does not pursue the value of the budget to a logical conclusion, it will be making mockery of the anti-graft crusade. Anti-corruption war is nothing to write home about — Shettima National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima said the Federal Government had failed in its drive against corruption against the backdrop of the budget scandal. He said: “This is just one among many corruption cases that we have seen. Since the crusade started, we have seen some people perceived to be above the law, they have not been probed. On that basis, there is nothing to write home about the fight against corruption especially in this context,” he said. Jibrin only seeking for attention—Kurfi Also reacting, the member representing Dutsinma/Kurfi Federal Constituency of Katsina State in the House of Representatives, Danlami Muhammad Kurfi, urged Nigerians to discard Jibrin’s allegations against some principal officers of the Green Chamber, stating that Jibrin was an attention seeker who should not be taken seriously.