Lawmakers angling for the sack of embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara remained resolute weekend even as its membership swelled above 230. The Speaker has been enmeshed in alleged padding of 2016 budget in diverse ways to the detriment of the nation’s economy, courtesy the whistle blower’s role adopted by the former chairman of the House appropriations committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
Although majority of the angry lawmakers prefer the resignation of the Speaker, there was a groundswell of their colleagues last night who believed that an outright impeachment of the Speaker was the only needed option. However news from Dogara’s camp indicated that he has hit the road trying to pacify his colleagues to stand down their plot.
Last week, no fewer than 200 members of the House called on Dogara to step down to allow for proper investigation into the budget padding controversy that has enveloped the legislative body.
According to one member from the North-east geo-political zone who preferred his name is not mentioned, “our numbers are rising by the moment; and we must get him out of the way to get to the root of the budget padding embarrassment.”
The member added that though not all of the aggrieved lawmakers are comfortable with impeaching Dogara, he said, “ many of us want him to step aside. But you know how this plays out. Once he agrees to step aside, nobody can tell if he can return to that seat as Speaker because the environment in that House is now very fluid and dynamic.”
Before now, a statement released by members of the Transparency Group in the House, expressed deep shock that Speaker Dogara has been trying to exonerate himself from responsibility for the scandalous padding of the 2016 budget. The statement disclosed that the group was appalled that the Speaker had “the temerity to come out publicly in defece of an action that is [a] clear negation of federal character principles and breach of trust,” adding that the speaker’s action was “both disappointing and dishonorable.”
Bashir Baballe, from Kano State, Agunsoye Oluwarotimi Ojo, a member of the House from Lagos State, and Abubakar Chika Adamu, from Niger State, signed the statement on behalf of the Transparency Group. Representatives of no fewer than 206 members signed that statement.
Aspects of the group statement include among others:
“The Speaker’s comments also endanger the spirit of the oneness of Nigeria,” said the group’s statement, adding that they wished to “stress the criminal aspect of the Speaker’s action, which is against the letters and spirit of the constitution he swore to protect.
“The general public should note that Speaker YakubuDogara made criminal insertions (otherwise known as ‘budget padding’) to the tune of over N3 billion to his constituency alone.
“While the entire Zonal Intervention for the three (3) Senatorial Districts of Bauchi State and 12 Federal Constituencies in the state amounts to N1, 666,666,666, the Speaker criminally inserted about 200 percent of the amount, totaling N3, 079,000,000, to his constituency alone!”
The group also accused Dogara of allocating N4.8 billion out of N9.3 billion in capital projects for Bauchi to his constituency, noting that the sum represented 50 percent of the capital budget for the state. The Transparency Group wrote: “If the above breach of trust and infringement of the Nigerian law are not criminal acts, the ‘insertions’ of bogus projects aimed at siphoning public funds, like vague ‘Youth Empowerment’ to the tune of N450 million, and ‘Strategic Youth Empowerment,’ to the tune of N500 million, should be.”
The lawmakers challenged the Speaker to “explain to the general public the difference between ‘Youth Empowerment’ and ‘Strategic Youth Empowerment’ if it is not a fraud. Every discerning mind knows that this is a riddle to hoodwink the general public against scrutinizing what is clearly a fraud.”
It insisted that any attempt to ignore the speaker’s alleged criminal activities would amount to “legalizing corruption.” They urged fellow members of the House “to toe the path of honor, integrity and yearnings of our constituents to avoid signing [a] ‘Vote of Confidence’ on the leadership of the House.”
The group demanded that Speaker Dogara come clean concerning the allegations, adding that the group would soon “start exposing the sleaze and corruption surrounding the internal budget of the House.”
The group therefore asked for Dogara’s resignation, saying:
“We hereby reiterate our call on Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara to resign in order to pave way for proper investigation” the group said in a statement on Saturday.
The statement titled : “How Dogara Padded 2016 Budget” was signed by Bashir Baballe, Member Representing Ungogo/Minjibir Federal Constituency of Kano State, AgunsoyeOluwarotimiOjo, Member Representing Kosofe Federal Constituency of Lagos State and Abubakar Chika Adamu, Member Representing Shiroro/Munya/Rafi Federal Constituency of Niger State on behalf of the 206 Members of Transparency Group.
Executive arm must have backed it to succeed – Ghali Na’abba
Meanwhile, Former Speaker of House of Representative, Ghali Na’abba has said that the controversial budget padding could not have been achieved without backing of some members of the executive arm.
Na’abba stated this while fielding questions from newsmen and reacting to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was quoted to have said the National Assembly is assembly of corrupt people.
The former Speaker of the green chamber during President Obasanjo’s first tenure said, no Nigerian is more corrupt than the former President.
Speaking further on the allegation of corruption by the former President, Na’abba said, Obasanjo should explain to Nigerians how he became one of the richest Nigerians after leaving office, when he had virtually nothing before he assumed office.
According to him, “well, I don’t think there is anybody that is more corrupt in this country like the former President. I believe you are talking about the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“As the Speaker, I took Obasanjo on various expenditure offences which he committed, which he could not defend and didn’t show any remorse. In fact, that is why sometimes in 2002, the National Assembly tried to impeach him.
“So, he has not got the integrity to call anybody corrupt. This is a man who became the president with nothing, today he is one of the richest Nigerians. Let him explain to Nigerians how he acquired all these wealth,” Na’Abba said.
On the alleged sharing of money during tenure elongation to members of the National Assembly, Na’abba said: “I am aware that, during the tenure elongation attempt of Obasanjo, money was shared to the members of the National Assembly. It was alleged that, the Senators collected N50million, House of Representatives members collected N40million. But I also know that, it was not all the members that collected this money. Some of them collected, some of them did not. But, I am aware that money was shared.”
On padding row in the House of Representatives, he said, if items of expenditure were actually added without knowledge of other members of the house, it amounts to padding, which according to him is illegal.
Reacting to the insinuation by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara that padding was not an offence, Ghali Na’abba said, “Well, It all depends from what angle one is looking at it. The responsibility for appropriation in this country belongs to the National Assembly, So, there is no way that the National Assembly can vote anything and it will be called padding.”
“If you are talking about padding, which I believe is generally accepted to be illegal, it must be a situation whereby certain members of the National Assembly will add certain items of expenditure behind their colleagues. If any item of expenditure is added behind other members, then that item can be said to be illegal and it can be called padding,” Na’abba however stated.