Deputy chairman (north) of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Lawal Shuaibu says the ruling party has no plan to sanction any of its members on the alleged budget padding in the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
For weeks, Abdulmumin Jibrin, the former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, has accused Speaker Yakubu Dogara and others of padding the 2016 budget through unnecessary insertions.
Dogara in response to Jibrin’s allegations once told journalists: “For me, I studied law and I have been in the legislature and all this period I have never heard of the word ‘padding’ being an offence under any law. If I don’t know, you are the media; research the law and let me know.”
But in an interview with journalists in Abuja, Shuaibu said the party was only concerned with its members’ conduct.
“What is padding? The party does not sanction anybody on that. What concerns us is where any member contravenes party constitution in his conduct,” Shuaibu said.
“That is why I refer you to Article 7, subsection 5 of our party constitution. We are not a law enforcement organisation; we don’t enforce law.
“We only ensure that the constitution is complied with; any member of the party is answerable to the party and answerable to its constituency. The two members that are subjected to this are elected or appointed members of the party, including those that are holding public office.
“So you expect the party to sit down and watch? No, we have to do our work. The issue of us sweeping anything under the carpet does not arise at all. But we don’t do it in the market place; we do it in the party secretariat.”
He added that the APC was quietly working to end the crisis in the House, but not in public glare.
Meanwhile, embattled speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara yesterday gave reasons why he failed to surrender himself to be interrogated by the Police Special Investigating Panel over the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
Dogara, who spoke at an interactive session with Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in Abuja, on one-year review of the eighth House of Representatives Legislative Agenda, said he enjoyed statutory protection under the Legislative Houses Powers & Privileges Act.
The event was organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, in collaboration with the House of Representatives.
While responding to questions, the speaker maintained that no one or agency had the powers to pry into the activities of the House, saying “most of the things we do in the National Assembly are privileged.”
According to him, legislative business of the House “cannot be grounds for any investigation or any procedure or proceeding to be commenced in court against a member of parliament, either the Speaker or even the Senate president, once they are done in exercise of their proper function.
“The law is there. Both communications, whatever it is, they are privileged. That is in order to give independence to the legislature. If the legislature is not independent we can’t do anything. If whatever you say on the floor or before a committee or whatever you communicate is subject of litigation, then all the members will be in court and at the end of the day when debate comes you cannot even air your views,” he averred.

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