by Samuel Ogundipe,
A defiant former chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, on Sunday said he had identified two governors working to shield Speaker Yakubu Dogara from prosecution over the budget padding scandal rocking the lower legislative chamber.
He also vowed not to withdraw his corruption charges against the Speaker, saying they were too grievous to be swept under the carpet.
Mr. Jibrin returned with his attacks after briefly complying with a gag orderissued by the APC on Thursday —barely three days ago— indicating that the fragile accord may have broken down.
Mr. Jibrin’s said a tentative truce prevailing on all parties to restrain from further engaging in “media war” had been breached by Mr. Dogara’s frequent public utterances, adding that the Speaker and his supporters had continued to disparaged him in the media.
Although Mr. Jibrin largely complied with the order, refraining from personally commenting on the scandal on Friday and Saturday, a group in the House, opposed to the Speaker, issued a statement.
Transparency Group, which styled itself as forum of 206 anti-corruption lawmakers, came down hard on Mr. Dogara, levelling fraud charges against him and demanding his resignation.
Mr. Jibrin had since July 21, a day after he was removed as Chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, levelled several allegations against Mr. Dogara and more than a dozen other lawmakers, saying they fraudulently padded the budget to the tune of N40 billion.
Mr. Dogara and the lawmakers denied the allegations.
In a lengthy statement he emailed to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday evening, Mr. Jibrin said he had informed party leaders that he would not continue to take the high road and watch Mr. Dogara ridicule the party’s resolution by scaling up vicious political and media attacks against him, adding that he had warned the party of the consequences of “keeping a sealed lip” on the development.
“I called Sen. Lawal Shuaibu and complained on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. He promised to reach the Speaker. On Friday the Speaker spoke to the press after meeting the president on the matter, and they launched a massive attack on me on Saturday and today Sunday in the media, while the party is keeping a sealed lip,” Mr. Jibrin said.
“Nobody will blame me that I responded.”
Although Mr. Jibrin used his latest statement to debunk claims that his allegations were against the executive or the National Assembly as a whole — the House and the Senate— he nonetheless introduced new characters into the battle.
The unnamed individuals, Mr. Jibrin said, included two serving governors and three ex-lawmakers, who he said were working hard at shielding Mr. Dogara and covering up the scandal.
Two governors, three ex-lawmakers as mercenaries
Mr. Jibrin said a grand cover-up plan by Mr. Dogara; his deputy Yusuf Lasun; House Whip Alhassan Doguwa; Minority Whip, Leo Ogor, and the nine other lawmakers he had previously accused was being executed by a team that allegedly included two governors and three lawmakers he said he would name in earnest.
“Surprisingly, they have resorted to using every tactics to narrow the allegations to only issue of padding, which in itself is a grievous offense, ignoring tens of other criminal allegations contained in my petition to the anti-corruption agencies. In doing so, they mischievously expanded the scope of the culpability to give an impression that the entire House, Senate and even the Executive arm of government and some individuals outside NASS are on trial.
“This is a wicked attempt to drag many institutions and individuals into the matter to neutralize the issue, spread fear and sell the dummy that the entire country will go down if this matter is dealt with decisively.
“This is the biggest blackmail I have ever seen. Nigerians should know that the whole agenda of this blackmail is being coordinated by a group of five people, two serving governors and three former members of the House. I will give their names in due course,” Mr. Jibrin said.
According to Mr. Jibril, other activities the five individuals recently embarked upon for Mr. Dogara and others included providing “soft-landing for them, give them time to clean up the mess on their desk, destroy whatever evidence in their possession and reach, spread money across members to buy signature of vote of confidence, try to scare and drag as many people as they can into this matter.”
Mr. Jibrin said the individuals allegedly planned to carry out for Mr. Dogara the task of invading “the party and top government officials and influential people that have the ears of the president and try to change the media and public narrative by embarking on very expensive media campaign to discredit and attack my person with all manner of lies they can concoct.”
‘New allegations, more insight’
Other than the multi-billion naira fraud he said Mr. Dogara allegedly oversaw during the budget vetting process, Mr. Jibrin said new evidence of hitherto unknown sharp practices by the Speaker had been allegedly uncovered, calling on anti-graft agencies to commence immediate investigation.
“Let me make further revelations here. In addition to the allegations I already made, the anti-corruption agencies should ask Speaker Dogara why on earth he collects 25million naira every month just to spend it the way he wants.
“They should also ask him to provide proof of how he is funding his farm in Nasarawa State which was just few hectares six months ago and now miraculously expands to about 100 hectares with new buildings and state-of-the-art equipment worth millions as well as the mansion he has suddenly built in Wuse II within six months,” Mr. Jibrin said.
Mr. Jibrin reiterated his position that the Senate must be absolved of any wrongdoing in the scandal, saying budgeting responsibilities rested chiefly with the House.
“It will be unfair to drag the Senate or senators into this matter. Everybody knows that it is the House that has commanding powers over appropriation. There is nothing in the senate appropriation committee secretariat, that is why I requested the protection of only that of the House when I heard Dogara was planning to destroy the computers and the hardware.
“The Senate president was too busy then to even get involved. He was always receiving what I later realized was skeletal briefing from the Speaker. It is also a strong tradition of the National Assembly that in an event of disagreement between standing committee of the Senate and the House, that of the House supersedes.
“That was exactly what we did on 2016 budget except that of Health, where we adopted the report of the Senate because the chairman House Committee on Health practically converted the budget to his personal estate, moving massive amount of money that made the whole exercise looked like a big joke,” Mr. Jibrin said.
The ‘dangerous’ quintet
Mr. Jibrin said security agencies and others concerned should be wary of the two governors and three ex-lawmakers allegedly working to save Mr. Dogara because of their bad tendencies, and offered suggestions about how they could be contained.
“We may never have this kind of opportunity to deal decisively with corruption in the House. We may never! If you observe carefully, you will notice attempts last week to wickedly drag the Senate, DSS, SGF and others into this matter. This is all orchestrated by the group of two governors, three former members and Speaker Dogara and his corrupt cabal.
“Nobody is in a better position than me to know who the culprits are. The next time you see them in your offices trying to blackmail you that these allegations will bring down the whole country, report them to the police immediately. These allegations are on Speaker Dogara and 12 others and will not in anyway bring down the House, the Senate or the executive arm of government as they are claiming in their widely spread propaganda,” Mr. Jibrin said.
Vote of confidence, death threats and the case for outside intervention
Mr. Jibrin said he stood by his allegations that Mr. Dogara bribed lawmakers to secure a vote of confidence in order to perpetuate himself in office despite growing calls for his resignation. He also repeated claims that his life was in danger, saying Mr. Dogara and others were out to “kill” him because of their “vested interest.”
“It is a fact that all the members that signed for Dogara’s vote of confidence collected money in a shameful and disgraceful exercise, and despite that the consensus remains the Speaker must step aside and face external investigation,” he said.
“I believe Speaker Dogara, the 12 others and some vested interest within and outside the House want to kill me. I no longer feel safe. I have carefully followed their desperation to suppress what will go down in history as the biggest corruption case in Nigeria. I have prepared myself for any eventuality. I have spoken to my mum and dad extensively during the weekend. I have prepared my family. I have handed over a handwritten note and documents to a popular SAN, a man of integrity and other persons that I believe will lay it bare even if they succeed in killing me.”
In his parting shot, Mr. Jibrin said former Nigerian leaders, elder statesmen and even foreign diplomats should weigh in on the matter and mount pressure on Mr. Dogara to reopen the House, saying he had been denied access to Mr. Buhari.
“Finally, this cabal of two governors and three former members have blocked every avenue that I can use to reach the President so that he can get a different perspective on this issue. Iam therefore left with no choice than to plead with all our former Heads of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Alh. Shehu Shagari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Enest Shonekan, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the diplomatic community, particularly Ambassador of the United States of America, High Commissioner of the United Kingdom, the German and French Ambassadors and all well-meaning Nigerians to join in the call on the corrupt and fraudulent Speaker Dogara and 3 others to reconvene the House immediately, step aside and allow for a thorough external investigation and also call on the anti-corruption agencies to expedite action on investigation and commencement of prosecution in line with the anti corruption stands of this government,” Mr. Jibrin said.
Mr. Dogara’s spokesman, Turaki Hassan, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ calls and text messages seeking comments for this story.