The controversy surrounding the padding of the 2016 Budget at the House of Representatives continued yesterday with the alleged sealing of the office of the House Committee on Appropriation by some people suspected to be operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS).
The controversy blew open after the immediate past Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee, Hon Abdulmumunu Jubrin, alleged that he rejected moves by principal officers of the House, led by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, to pad the 2016 Budget to the tune of N410 billion.
Jibrin has been replaced by Hon. Mustapha Dawaki. Also, yesterday, Jibrin said he had reported Dogara to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged corrupt practices, even as the anti-corruption unit of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) petitioned the EFCC to ask the commission to probe the former House Appropriation Committee Chair for alleged fraud.
Meanwhile, reacting to the alleged sealing of the House Appropriation Committee’s office, Dawaki said it was safe and open and that all the documents in the office, including computer system, were intact.
But the Clerk of the committee, Dr. Abel Ochobi, who tried to take journalists to inspect that the office was not shutdown, could not gain access to his office, prompting him to say that the security operatives seen in the place was on the order of the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sani Omolori.
The Clerk had, in a letter to the CNA, titled, ‘Alleged shutdown, seizure, packing/relocating of Committee system and records/documents and harassment of staff’, had claimed that the report was false. Saying, yesterday, that he had reported Dogara to the EFCC, Jibrin made it clear that the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; the Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa, and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, were also joined in the petition to the EFCC, alongside eight other chairmen of committees.
According to the document he made available to journalists, he said, “Yesterday we recorded huge success in our mission to get the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara and his cohorts to face prosecution.
“On the request of my lawyers, the security agencies have promptly protected the appropriation secretariat, my office and the House”.
A coalition of media and civil society organisations also said, yesterday, that the nation’s democracy was under trial following what it described as the alleged plot to destabilise the leadership of the House of Representatives by external forces.
The CSO, in the statement, signed by Omoluabi Olabode Adeyemi, Executive Director of African Media Roundtable Initiative and convener, Coalition of Analysts and Media and Civil Society Organisations, and Opeyemi Duke, Executive Director, Centre for Legislative Advocacy, said it was the responsibility of the legislature to make appropriation, adding that there was nothing like padding in legislative terms.
The NYCN, in its petition to EFCC, signed by its coordinator of the anti-corruption unit, Ifeanyi Okonkwo, accused Jibrin of being involved in multi-million naira contract and called on the anti-graft agency to investigate him. The group accused Jibrin of orchestrating the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.