by Samuel Ogundipe, PremiumTimes
A former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, on Friday accused some senior lawmakers in the House of living large by appropriating illegal allowances to themselves at the expense of Nigerian taxpayers.
The lawmakers, who currently serve in different capacities as principal officers of the House, have allegedly shared more than N10 billion amongst themselves as “office running cost,” a subhead legislators have used for years to corner illegal allowances to themselves.
Nigerians have complained about these illegal allowances for years but this is the first time in Nigeria’s history that a serving lawmaker would open up on the sharp practices.
Mr. Jibrin disclosed the details in an email to PREMIUM TIMES Friday night as part of the unfolding budget padding scandal he triggered more than a month ago.
The 10 principal officers and the funds they have allegedly received so far as running costs included the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, who allegedly got the largest share of N1.5 billion.
Others on the list included Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, N800 million; Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, N1.2 billion; his deputy, Buba Jibril, N1.2 billion; House Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, N1.2 billion; and his deputy, Pally Iriase, N700 million.
The rest included Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, N1.2 billion; Minority Whip, Yakubu Barde, N700 million; Deputy Minority Whip, Binta Bello, N700 million; and one Chuma he listed as Minority Whip, N700 million.
But contrary to what Mr. Jibrin stated in his statement, PREMIUM TIMES could not find any lawmaker by the name Chuma with the designation of Minority Whip.
Similarly, Mr. Jibrin listed Mr. Barde as Deputy Minority Leader who has been in the House since 2007. But findings by this newspapers showed that Mr. Barde was first elected in 2003 and he serves as Minority Whip. Our Efforts to get Mr. Jibrin to clarify these ambiguities were unsuccessful as calls to his known telephone number was neither answered nor returned.
Although the latest allegations primarily targeted the familiar names Mr. Jibrin had been waging political and media war against for weeks, it nonetheless, marked the first time the Kano lawmaker would openly accuse Mr. Gbajabiamila of being a beneficiary of fraudulent proceeds.
The inclusion of Mr. Gbajabiamila did not however entirely come as a surprise to observers. He was among the principal officers who jointly signed a statement last week to castigate Mr. Jibrin and threaten him with sanction when the House resumes from its recess in September.
In his statement on Friday, Mr. Jibrin said he listed Mr. Gbajabiamila and other principal officers to show that he was not only waging a war to remove Mr. Dogara from office but also to stop the questionable office running largesse, which he described as the sole unifying force for the 360-member House.
“Most of these members use it to acquire properties, cars and live a life of luxury they never lived before coming to the House,” Mr. Jibrin said.
Mr. Jibrin said he would continue the fight because “It is only when the legislature comes with purity that effective oversight will be carried out and investigative hearing to expose fraud and corruption can be undertaken.”
Mr. Jibrin said he was waging the campaign with the hope that it would bring about a lasting turnaround in the fraudulent premise upon which many aspiring lawmakers readily base their ambitions.
“The consequential effect of dealing with corruption in the House, especially the allowances issue, will take its toll on even elections. Candidates usually spend so much money hoping that they can recoup from the huge allowances they will receive when elected into House.
“When you know that there is no such money in the House to be shared, I am sure nobody will want to put in so much money just to win an election to the House.
“The resultant effect will be that only people who truly want to serve will vie for the office, and voters will be obliged to vote according to the dictate of their conscience. This is just one advantage,” Mr. Jibrin said.
Mr. Jibrin made the first revelations about the fraudulent manipulation of 2016 budget on July 21, a day after he was eased out as chairman of the powerful appropriations committee.
This week, he celebrated the first month of what experts described as of one Africa’s biggest parliamentary scandals and ascribed his perseverance to his natural desire for political advocacy.
“I have said it repeatedly that this activism has been running in my blood, and thankfully the fallout of the 2016 budget became the trigger and provided me with the right avenue.”
Mr. Jibrin, therefore, implored Nigerians to remain steadfast and vigilant as he leads the cause to liberate it from those he described as corrupt elements.
“As we continue this struggle to wipe out corruption and restore sanity in the House of Representatives, I will continue to urge Nigerians to remain vigilant as these corrupt elements can go to any length to change the narration and evade justice,” Mr. Jibrin said.
Mr. Dogara’s spokesman, Turaki Hassan, did not answer PREMIUM TIMES’ calls seeking comments for this story.
Abdulrazak Namdas, the spokesperson for the House, could also not be reached for comments as his listed telephone line was switched off the several times our reporter called.