Budget Padding: Dogara, House of Rep. Purge Yourselves of Jibrin’s Allegations

It can hardly stand the test of probity the action of the House of Representatives Wednesday at the resumption of plenary after a two month vacation.
Former Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has since July shouted himself hoarse that the House leadership built into the 2016 budget meaningless projects to fleece the nation billions of naira.
According to him, those projects are not meant to be executed but the money voted for them is pocketed- just like that!
Jibrin alleged that N40 billion was inserted by the House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and four other officers.
He has also gone further to allege that another N280 billion was fraudulently injected into the budget by the lawmakers, forcing President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold his assent. These are weighty allegations that those concerned should not ignore. It warrants investigation by appropriate agencies.
So, it was expected that at resumption of plenary after the recess, the House would take a critical look at the allegations and asked those mentioned in the scandal to step aside to allow for a thorough investigation but alas, rather than go for the message, the House decided to go for the messenger.
In an ideal clime, Speaker of the House and the principal officers mentioned in the allegation would have since stepped aside, at least to clear their names.
Watching the rowdy session of the House in its first plenary after the break, Wednesday, it sent cold shiver down the minds of Nigerians to see our representatives blocked the moves to probe Dogara, distributing banners, shamelessly, saying “with Dogara we stand”
When asked to step aside, Dogara said the whole House would have to resign first because the House was also accused.
Dogara, in a face serving defence, stated that Jibrin is out to destroy the Lower Chamber as an institution.
In his speech delivered to welcome Reps members from their annual recess, Dogara stated that the House would not be distracted by “any insidious antics, however, well-orchestrated, and falsehoods, however, cleverly propagated to confuse Nigerians.”
He averred that the Lower Chamber will rather as public servants; remain accountable to Nigerians for the conduct of their representatives, pointing out that the plenary was “not the appropriate venue to address allegations made against individual Honourable members, many of which are criminal in nature.
He said in the speech: “The events of the recent weeks give cause for grave concern and pose existential threats to the corporate integrity and image of the House as a democratic institution designed by the Constitution to play a vital role in our nation’s governmental system.
“Shortly after we adjourned for the recess, our colleague and erstwhile Chairman Appropriation Committee embarked on a strange propaganda clearly aimed not only at the destruction of the image of some members but a systematic destruction of the institution of the House of Representatives and indeed the legislature by portraying it to the public as an irredeemably corrupt institution.
“The motivation for his actions, as he has said severally and repeatedly is to have the four principal officers removed from their positions and not that the truth should be known.
“It was TS Eliot who once said, ‘the last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reasons’. Unfortunately TS Elliot didn’t tell us what it is when someone does the wrong deed for the wrong reasons. These wild allegations which were initially directed at four Members of the House Leadership progressively engulfed the entire membership of the House and then the Institution.
“We chose the part of maturity by maintaining great restraint in the face of all these, fully conscious of the fact that at the appropriate time, the truth will prevail. I have bad news for those who think they can pull down this Institution of the people. If history is any guide, no one, in a democracy has ever succeeded in destroying a democratic Institution such as the House of Representatives, although examples abound of such effort by people both within and outside the Institution. Ours cannot be different.
“Let me assure all Nigerians that the House is fully conscious of its watchdog role in our democracy and will always strive to earn the trust and confidence of Nigerians. We are also patriotic enough to understand the mood of the nation and the critical and sensitive matters of urgent national importance deserving our immediate attention. We will therefore not be distracted by any insidious antics however well orchestrated, and falsehoods however cleverly propagated to confuse Nigerians. We remain accountable to Nigerians for our conduct as public servants.
“This is not the appropriate venue to address allegations made against individual Honourable Members many of which are criminal in nature as there are constitutional avenues for that. This is more so that these matters are before all the security agencies and ridiculously before some Foreign Missions! It is however important to briefly say that nothing warrants the deliberate attempt at destructive public misinformation aimed at discrediting the House as an institution. These events have shown that we certainly need to engage more with the Nigerian public on the functions and modus operandi of the National Assembly, which is a democratic institution that relies on public support for its activities. I am sure we will emerge from all these stronger and more committed to attainment of national goals than before.”
Despite the speech, there can hardly be any reasonable assertion that some serious fight against corruption is taking place in the House without Dogara and his officers stepping down to allow for investigation to ascertain the true position of things.
It is out of place for the House leadership to continue to be the Judge in their own case.
The best way to lay to rest the budget padding allegation is for the Speaker and the principal officers of the House to step aside. Anyone whose hands are clean should not be afraid to submit himself or herself for investigation.
This is central to cleaning the image of those mentioned and the entire House in general. Wishing it away with the wave of the hand is inappropriate at this moment.
Over the years, the conduct of lawmakers has often called their integrity into question. Regardless of political party affiliation, they have always comported themselves in a manner that compels their being placed under watch, despite their claim to being the watchdogs.
At any time, when they are not exchanging blows and breaking maces, they are bickering over their so-called welfare. That is an issue over which opinions at the Assembly are never divided along party lines.
In the past, there were allegations that they demanded bribes to either confirm ministerial lists or pass the budgets of the various ministries, departments and agencies.
What is required in the present circumstance is an open investigation, when all will be laid bare before the public, it is then the nation can know who is lying and who is not.
All anti-graft agencies should move in and take it from where Jibrin has stopped. As the accuser has said repeatedly, he was prepared to produce documents to back his allegations.
This matter should not be swept under the carpet!

Author: News Editor

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