by Samuel Ogundipe, PremiumTimes
The House of Representatives on Wednesday suspended Abdulmumin Jibrin, a lawmaker from Kano at the centre of the unfolding budget padding scandal, for 180 legislative days.
The House seats three days in a week and this consequently means that Mr. Jibrin’s suspension would last more than a year.
In a motion recommended by House Ethics Committee chairman, Nicholas Ossai, and adopted by the whole House, Mr. Jibrin will also not be able to hold any position of responsibility for the span of the current National Assembly.
Mr. Jibrin began stirring what experts now described as one Africa’s biggest parliamentary scandals in recent memory on July 21, a day after he was eased out as chairman of the powerful committee.
Although the House was taking a two-month recess at the time, Mr. Jibrin remained resolute in his quest to “end the massive corruption in the House.”
“My resolve to champion this cause was borne out of patriotism and desire to complement the present administration’s anti-corruption war from the legislative front,” Mr. Jibrin said in an email to PREMIUM TIMES on August 21.
Mr. Jibrin said the campaign had earned him “blackmail, propaganda and campaign of calumny” from Mr. Dogara, lawmakers loyal to him and their proxies.
The assault had been largely targeted at the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, and three other principal officers, whose resignation and prosecution he had continued to demand.
Mr. Dogara had announced the removal of Mr. Jibrin in a speech he read in plenary on July 20, alleging budget fraud and serial betrayal of trust.
To back his allegations against Mr. Dogara, Mr. Jibrin released damning documents to the media.
On July 30, the State Security Service sealed the secretariat of the Appropriation Committee in the National Assembly after Mr. Jibrin raised the alarm that Mr. Dogara had allegedly concluded plans to cart away computers and destroy evidence.
Mr. Jibrin also visited law enforcement agencies, including the EFCC, the SSS and the police, where he said he personally submitted petitions detailing evidence of fraudulent manipulation of budget by Mr. Dogara, his deputy Yusuf Lasun, House Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, and nine others.
After several days of silence, Mr. Dogara succumbed to public demands for him to defend himself and came out with blistering statements denying all the charges against him.
Mr. Dogara took specific issue with the ‘budget padding’ catchphrase, saying it was a strange term to use when describing the actions of the legislature.
Consequently, lawmakers began openly criticising Mr. Jibrin for allegedly defacing the National Assembly, dealing a major blow to his crusade.
Mr. Jibrin’s isolation became even more pronounced after 10 principal officers of the House released a statement backing Mr. Dogara and denouncing Mr. Jibrin. Amongst them was Femi Gbajabiamila, the Majority Leader who many thought would be reluctant to openly back Mr. Dogara.
The development sparked speculation that Mr. Jibrin would be suspended upon resumption of the House from recess.
The House resumed on September 20 and a lawmaker loyal to Mr. Dogara moved a motion the next day to have Mr. Jibrin probed for allegedly breaching the privileges of the members.
Emmanuel Orker-Jev, a lawmaker from Benue, proposed tough sanctions against Mr. Jibrin for the damage his allegations have allegedly wrought on the House.
“The image of the House has never been worse than this before. Hon. Jibrin was reckless and the allegations were false. He knew that the allegations were false and scandalous and he had no regards at all to whether the allegations were true or false,” Mr. Orker-Jev said.
The House subsequently assigned the matter to its Ethics and Privileges Committee for further investigation and to report back within a week with its findings and recommendations.
Mr. Ossai, chairman of the committee, convened the first hearing on the matter September 23, during which Mr. Orker-Jev submitted his allegations against Mr. Jibrin.
Mr. Jibrin received an invitation to appear before the committee on Monday. But decided to boycott the hearing, even though his demand that the sitting be thrown open to the public was met by Mr. Ossai. Mr. Jibrin also asked his lawyer, Femi Falana, to seek discontinuation of committee’s actvities in court.
Mr. Ossai said Mr. Jibrin’s failure to appear before his “properly and constitutionally constituted committee” was, in effect, a defence.
Mr. Jibrin had on Tuesday alleged subjudice saying the committee should not have sat since the matter was in court.
Mr. Jibrin’s suspension would see him banned from the premises of the National Assembly in the course of the disciplinary action. He would also not receive salaries or allowances.
Some sympathisers of Mr. Jibrin saw his suspension as partisan, draconian and counterproductive.
“This show of partisanship and support for Mr. Dogara is condemnable and too severe,” said a political analyst, Gbola Oba.
Mr. Oba said Mr. Jibrin had suffered the same fate as Dino Melaye who was suspended in 2010 for breach of members’ privilege. Mr. Melaye is now a senator representing Kogi West.
“We knew they would gang up against him as they did against Mr. Melaye,” Mr. Oba said. “This clearly shows that the House has failed to move beyond its counterproductive ways of suspending anyone who challenges the status quo.
“If the House were a serious body, serious attention would be given to Mr. Jibrin’s claim so as to foster a thriving democratic experiment within the country.”