The sacked chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has revealed how principal officers of the House allegedly diverted various sums of money.
According to him, Speaker Yakubu Dogara and other House leaders allegedly diverted over N10b meant for the personal running cost of members. This is coming as members have taken their war to the telecommunication sphere.
Jibrin said the running cost was not part of the salaries of the lawmakers, and therefore wants the anti-corruption agencies to step in and investigate.
He described the running cost as part of the corruption confronting the institution. According to him, “It should be noted, however, that money is voted as ‘running cost’ to members apart from salaries.
“You don’t need a professor or a committee of technocrats to tell you what is reasonable as running cost for member of the House and also how the money should be administered and who should be the recipient of the money.
“The way the allowances of members are currently structured cannot pass the integrity test of any of the aforesaid. The issue of allowances of Members of the House is another systemic corruption.
“Since you cannot afford the systemic shock if you go all out and arrest 200 to 300 members at once, what you do is to deal with the issues in phases.
“Today, I will start with the 10 principal officers of the House of Representatives. If just these 10 are named and shamed, it will force reform in the House. I will therefore provide what each one of them had collected as “office running cost” in their entire stay in the House.
“If any one of them disputes my figure, he or she should not make a drama out of it but just simply tell the country how much he or she has collected.
“Running cost is a money collected by many members (with a few exception) and used as personal funds. No more, no less – case closed! Most of these members use it to acquire properties, cars and live a life of luxury they never lived before coming to the House.
“Though there exist systems for retirement of such money but a simple investigation by a primary school pupil will reveal the massive fraud therein.
“From computation of various sub heads of allowances of the House, Speaker Yakubu Dogara has been in the House from 2007 to date. He has received about N1.5billion. Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun has been in the house from 2011 to date. He has received about N800million.
“House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila has been in the House from 2003 to date. He has received about N1.2billion. Deputy House Leader Buba has been in the House from 2007 to date. He received about N1.2billion.
“Whip Alhassan Doguwa has been in the House from 2003 to date. He has received about N1.2 billion. Deputy Whip Pally Iriase has been in the house from 2011 to date. He has received N700 million.
“Minority Leader Leo Ogor has been in the House from 2007 to date. He has received N1.2 billion. Deputy Minority Leader Barde has been in the House from 2011 to date. He has received N700 million. Minority Whip Chuma has been in the House from 2007 to date.
“He has received N800 million. And finally, Deputy Minority Whip Binta has been in the House from 2011 to date. She has received N700 million.
“So in between these 10 principal Officers, the country has pumped about N10 billion – and still counting! As I have mentioned earlier, in most cases with few exceptions, these funds are diverted for personal use.
“I will provide further breakdown of these figures in due course. I will also provide 50 additional names of members with worst cases of diversion of such funds in due course so we can name and shame them.
“As we continue this struggle to wipe out corruption and restore sanity in the House of Representatives, I will continue to urge Nigerians to remain vigilant as these corrupt elements can go to any length to change the narration and evade justice.”
Meanwhile, fear has gripped some members of the National Assembly following hints by the Police that they would be proceeding with their planned questioning of Dogara over the padding allegations made by Jibrin.
It was gathered that during the week many of the lawmakers who were involved in the 2016 budget processes were asking questions about the police planned inquisition.
Sources revealed that some of them who had travelled abroad are back in Abuja where endless meetings are daily held to discuss the padding crisis.
National Assembly sources had talked about a plan by a group of federal lawmakers to scuttle the planned probe by raising false alarms that certain individuals are being targeted for victimization by the presidency as soon as the national assembly reconvenes.
A reliable source said the plan was the outcome of a meeting held at the Abuja home of a Southeast Senator on Friday.
“The plan is to discredit the police probe even before it kicks off. Many of those who had one hand or the other in the processes that gave birth to the 2016 budget are scared stiff that police investigations into the padding allegation will no doubt uncover their involvements. Many of them are anxiously finding ways to avert being indicted by the probe.
“Those having sleepless nights over this padding issue are not just members of the House of Representatives; some Senators are also worried they may be indicted.”
When contacted, one of the lawmakers mentioned by Jibrin in his allegations, admitted that some lawmakers met in Abuja to discuss the development, but said there is nothing like fear amongst them. Instead, he said the meetings were to discuss how to respond to Jibrin’s incessant allegations in the interest of the national assembly and its leaderships.
“It is not true to say we are afraid of being probed. It is going to be Jibrin’s words against ours when the probe starts. So there is not talk of anxiety or fear at all. It is true we have met on a number of occasions. We have to meet though the House is on recess. There is need to decide how to react to the many lies being told by Jibrin on a daily basis. Don’t forget the party said all parties should stop the media exchanges, but he didn’t stop.”
In the meantime, members are now locked in an SMS war to woo as many members as possible to their side ahead of the September resumption from recess.
The two sides are poised to put their popularity to test on the floor of the Green Chamber following the damaging allegations made by Jibrin that Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuff Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Minority Leader Leo Ogor and nine others inserted about 2000 projects worth N284 billion into the 2016 budget.
They have resorted to sending text messages to their colleagues telling their own stories and pleading for support once they resume. They were originally scheduled to resume on September 7 but this has now been fixed for after the Eid el Kabir .
The Jibrin camp fears that the House leadership plans to suspend him, and does not want him humiliated.
On the other hand anti-Dogara Reps want the Speaker to resign or step aside pending investigation of the allegations made by Jibrin.
The Speakers’ supporters do not want that.
Instead they are mobilizing effort to get enough members to give him a vote of confidence at the first seating when the House reconvenes.
According to sources, nearly all members, except known die-hard anti-Dogara legislators, are daily bombarded with calls and text messages soliciting their understanding and support for the Bauchi-born politician.
“I still got a call and two text messages today soliciting my understanding and support for the Speaker,” a Rep said yesterday.
When contacted over the phone for response to the latest allegation, Dogara’s Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan asked our reporter to contact House spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas.
Namdas however, said the House would not respond to the allegations and wondered why Jibrin could not wait for the anti-graft agencies to which he submitted petitions do their job.
“The party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has directed all parties to stop commenting publicly on the matter. We abide by the party’s directive,” he said.
Ogor on his part said he would no longer exchange words with Jibrin over the budget padding controversy or any other related issue.
“I will not have any altercation with Jibrin over this issue again, I think I have spoken enough about the issue. I have made between 10 and 15 comments about the issues raised by Jibrin since the controversy broke out and no matter what he says again, as far as I am concerned, I will not make further comments until the House resumes.”
However, House Whip Doguwa said Jibrin said nothing new.
“There is nothing new to respond to. As far as I am concerned, all that Jibrin had said and whatever he may have to say in the future are not true,” he said.
Majority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila could not be reached as he was away in Mauritius for the ongoing Commonwealth Parliamentary conference.
His media aide, Olanrewaju Smart said he was not competent to speak on the issue while calls to Deputy Minority Whip, Binta Bello were not returned as at the time of this report.