Budget Padding: Dogara Shuns Police Invitation


IM

The Speaker of the House of
Representatives, Yakubu
Dogara, has shunned the
invitation of the police Special
Investigating Panel over
allegations of budget padding. The PUNCH reliably gathered on
Wednesday that the Speaker did
not honour the police invitation
because the letter was not
signed by the Inspector-General
of Police, Ibrahim Idris. The panel had in a letter to
Dogara requested him and
others mentioned in the petition
to appear before it last Friday.
The Speaker, however, did not
honour the invitation. Rather, he met with President Muhamadu
Buhari over the budget crisis on
Friday.
While Dogara’s accuser and a
former House Appropriation
Chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin, appeared before the panel last
week Friday and on Tuesday,
Dogara and other principal
officers shunned it.
Jibrin had accused the Speaker
of padding the 2016 budget in collusion with some officers of
the House.
Jibrin had submitted a petition
against the accused to the police,
the Economic and Financial
Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices
and other related offences
Commission, urging the agencies
to probe them.
The lawmaker had also visited
the police last Wednesday with documents to back up his claims.
The PUNCH gathered on
Wednesday that the police
invitation was regarded as an
“informal invitation.”
A committee chairman close to Dogara who spoke on condition
of anonymity told our
correspondents that although
an invitation was sent to the
Speaker last week by the police,
the document was “considered to be informal because it was
signed by a low-ranking officer.”
He said, “The Speaker is the
number four citizen of this
country.
“If you are sending a letter to him, there should be a signature
of the Inspector-General of
Police on it.”
But a source close to the public
panel told one of our
correspondents that Dogara’s reason was not tenable, adding
that any member of the panel
could sign the invitation.
When contacted, Dogara’s
Special Adviser on Media and
Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, said he would make enquiries
and get back to The PUNCH.
However, as of 9.48pm on
Wednesday, Hassan had yet to
return the call.
He also did not reply to a text message sent to his mobile
phone.
The Force Public Relations
Officer, Donald Awunah, said he
could not comment because he
did not know anything about the investigation.
“I don’t know about the
investigation, so I can’t
comment,” he said on the
telephone.
Police, EFCC probe illegal –Reps Some members of the House of
Representatives took a position
on the budget padding
allegations by Jibrin on
Wednesday, declaring that
neither the police nor the EFCC had the power to investigate
legislative proceedings.
Findings showed on Wednesday
that the majority of the 96
committee chairmen and their 96
deputies considered the 2016 Appropriation Act as a law
already in operation.
The development came as The
PUNCH learnt that members of
the Transparency Group were
under pressure to back down on their confrontation with the
leadership of the House.
An official of the House said,
“The 1999 Constitution (as
amended), particularly in
sections 80 and 81, spell out the processes for the appropriation
of government funds.
“The 2016 money bill did not
only comply with the provisions
of the constitution, but also
followed all other legislative processes of passing bills by the
National Assembly.
“The question that has remained
unanswered is what the police
and the anti-graft agencies want
to investigate.” Investigations showed that the
chairmen and their deputies had
discussed the issue and resolved
that the budget conformed to
the provisions of the law.
One of the chairmen, who heads the House Committee on Army,
Mr. Rima Shawulu, told The
PUNCH that lawmakers
considered the involvement of
the police and the EFCC in
“purely parliamentary processes” as a waste of
resources and man-hours.
“The police and the EFCC cannot
investigate the internal
proceedings of the House.
Neither the House rules nor the Constitution of this country gives
them the power to do so.
“What are they coming to
investigate? That Jibrin said
budget was padded? If he said
budget was padded, he must bring the original. Where is the
original?
“Let him publish the original.
What will the police do in this
case? That the House did not
follow its process before the President signed the budget into
law?
“If they are saying the zonal
intervention projects are not
being executed as passed in the
budget, that is criminal, but that is not the case here.
“There is no place in the
legislative process for the police
or the EFCC.”
The PUNCH gathered that this
was the position that the Speaker and the three other
principal officers accused by
Jibrin would make known to the
police and the EFCC when they
eventually appear before the
security agency. The others are the Deputy
Speaker, Mr. Lasun Yussuff; the
Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-
Doguwa; and the Minority
Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor.
Meanwhile, the meeting of the Transparency Group, a group of
legislators backing Jibril, failed to
take place for the second time
on Wednesday.
Findings showed that the
lawmakers came under pressure to stop their attacks on the
principal officers of the House.
But the group was said to have
insisted that the budgeting
process was flawed and must be
reviewed. One of the key members of the
group, Mr. Baballe Bashir,
confirmed that the group was
under pressure.
He, however, denied that the
pressure was the reason the group could not meet.
Bashir, who is from Kano State,
explained that many members
had travelled to their
constituencies to attend to
pressing demands by their constituents.
He admitted that the group had
sought a review of the
budgeting process to address
the “glaring cases of exclusion”
in the distribution of zonal intervention projects.
“Our position is that there is so
much that we must address in
the budget so that the problems
will not repeat themselves,”
Bashir added. He stated that the group had not
backed down on the call for
investigation into the allegations
made by Jibrin.
APC will do the right thing, says
Oni The leadership of the All
Progressives Congress,
however, urged Nigerians to
trust the ruling party in handling
the padding crisis.
The APC Deputy National Chairman (South), Mr. Segun Oni,
said Nigerians should not rely on
body language, but on what the
party spoke on the issue.
The former Governor of Ekiti
State was asked by one of our correspondents why the APC
was handling the alleged
padding of the 2016 national
budget as a “family affair” when
the issue was national and had
generated public interest. He said, “The APC family is also a
family of Nigerians because
Nigerians have given us the
responsibility to run Nigeria. So,
if anything affects Nigeria, it
affects our family and if anything affects our family, we expect
Nigerians to take interest in it.
“Our party has as one of our
cardinal objectives, the agenda
to wrestle corruption to the
ground. “Nigerians should stop
insinuating; they should listen to
us. They should listen to our
language as we speak it out. We
are not going to contradict
ourselves. Nigerians should expect us to do the right thing.”
The ex-governor said the APC
had assigned an all-northerner
committee, including the Deputy
National Chairman (North), the
National Vice-Chairman (North- West) and the National Secretary
of the party, to handle the
party’s intervention.
Both Dogara and Jibrin, who are
at the centre of the crisis, are
from the North.