The last may not have been heard of the raging disagreement between the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara and Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin over the alleged padding of the 2016 Budget. Like the infamous Faruk Lawal subsidy bribery scandal in 2012, the House of Representatives appears to be sinking deep into its own mess exposed by the removal of the chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House, Jibrin.
Jibrin, it would be recalled, was relieved of his position as chairman of the Appropriation Committee by Dogara for “sundry acts of misconduct, incompetence, total disregard for his colleagues and abuse of the budgetary process, among others.” according to the Chairman, Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas.
However, Jibrin, in fighting back, opened a can of worm involving the leadership of the House and other principal officers. The unfolding drama, as it were, has degenerated to such a level that, unlike the Faruk Lawal scandal, the House’s internal investigating mechanism appears to be overwhelmed by the deluge of allegations and counter-allegations between Jibrin and Dogara.
While Jibrin is urging the anti-graft body, EFCC to step in and commence investigation into the whole mess, the Transparency Group in the House led by Mr. Lawal Gumau, also seems agreed that the scandal is beyond what the House can handle internally, calling on the anti-graft body to intervene in the spirit of the ongoing anti-corruption war.
From the media briefing of Namdas, it could be deduced that it is a tradition in the House to tamper with budget whenever it is transmitted from the Executive to the Legislature. Citing Sections 81(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) the House image-maker had justified that tinkering with budget is part of the functions of the House. Taking this as the position of the House and the floppy defence offered by the House for relieving Jibrin of his position as chairman of Appropriation Committee, it seems the Speaker and his supporters are only joining issues with the former with respect to what they have classified as libelous allegations against the person of the Speaker. This, perhaps, is the premise on which the Speaker’s seven days’ notice for Jibrin to apologize/withdraw the allegations against him can find plausible expression.
The New Diplomat’s search has revealed that it is the duty of the Attorney General of the Federation to institute an investigation into the mess but that again will depend on a petition forwarded to the anti-graft body to wade and unearth the truth for Nigerians to see. A member of the House from the South-South who spoke to The New Diplomat on the padding scandal lambasted the Speaker and some of the named principal officers, saying that “their actions and omissions have become a huge ridicule to the entire House.”
The one-week notice issued by Dogara through his legal representatives will expire on Wednesday August 3, 2016. The notice specifically states that failure to apologize/withdraw the allegations made by Jibrin against the speaker will incur the risk of a suit against the former chairman. But most who responded to the Speaker’s threat are wont to agree that the issue borders more on a criminal case than civil. A legal expert, Alh. Mumaka Ali, who spoke to The New Diplomat on the issue stated that where a matter has both criminal and civil aspects, it is trite in law that the criminal case be dealt with first before the civil aspect.
While expecting either the EFCC to commence a criminal investigation or Dogara’s civil suit to commence a case of libel against Jibrin, Nigerians are waiting and watching to see the macabre dance which their elected representatives perform on the floor of the green chambers of the National Assembly. What is more, most people believe that it is high time the country reviewed the tortuous provision in the Constitution that makes it almost impossible to recall elected members whose representation fall short of expectation.