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There was a palpable tension in the House of Representatives on Monday over an alleged plot to remove the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, over the budget padding allegations made by a former Chairman of the Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin.
It was gathered that many members were ruffled, forcing a large number of them to rush from their vacation spots to meetings in Abuja where the alleged plot was discussed.
Findings showed that the Majority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, however, doused the tension among factions by urging members to have faith in the leadership of the House under Dogara.
The All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Lagos State has kept sealed lips over the budget crisis since it started on July 21.
Gbajabiamila had refused to speak openly in support of Jibrin or Dogara, and the three other principal officers whom Jibrin had accused of padding the 2016 Budget.
The others are the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun; the Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor.
It was learnt that some persons in the House in a text message that members of the House received on Monday accused Gbajabiamila of siding with Jibrin to remove Dogara because of his silence.
“This group circulated a text message among members, giving the impression that there would be a leadership change in the House.
“They attempted to re-open the old Dogara-Gbajabiamila rivalry and create mayhem,” a senior legislative official said in Abuja on Monday.
The source of the text message was unknown as of the time of filing this report.
It read, “Plot to destabilise the leadership of the House of Reps has taken a new dimension as the Attorney-General of the Federation, working with Gbajabiamila, Jibrin and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, has drafted charges to arraign and detain principal officers of the House so that the Transparency Group, who recently met with Tinubu’s wife, will effect a leadership change with Gbajabiamila as Speaker and Jibrin as the Deputy.
“This is why Jibrin did not mention Femi (Gbajabiamila) in his allegations. The 8th House won’t be anybody’s rubber stamp. We will resist them like the Senate resisted them.”
Alarmed by the message, Gbajabiamila wrote members to calm them, urging them to disregard the text.
He also explained that he had kept silent to avoid his comments being mistaken for taking sides.
Gbajabiamila told members that he chose to break his silence because the text message gave the wrong signal.
Gbajabiamila’s communication to members, which was sent via text message.
It read in part, “Since the budget controversy that engulfed the House about a week ago, I have pointedly maintained a dignified silence. I did this for the sake of the institution that I represent and which I have laboured hard to grow and protect, knowing that whatever I say could be impactful both within the House and outside it.
“I was determined to keep in place the glue that holds an otherwise fragmented House, protect its integrity and at same time avoid eroding the little confidence and vestiges of hope Nigerians have in us.
“Unfortunately, the controversy has now taken a different turn following the rather strange text making the rounds among members about my complicity in this rather sordid matter. I am being dragged into an arena I tried very hard to stay out of for the good of the House.
“The speakership election has come and gone. The election was divisive and acrimonious, but I have worked hard to heal the wounds, some of which still fester among members on both sides. It is my responsibility to bring together all tendencies in the House and I have worked well with the Speaker and all other principal officers in the interest of the institution and the country.
“The text message, which desperately seeks to finger me in some macabre plot to destabilise the House, is a throwback and echoes our dark post-speakership election history. The resurfacing of the faceless text messengers will not help us as a House, and let me quickly add that it will fail.
“My strongest critics and biggest political adversaries in the House cannot deny the fact that my commitment has always been to strengthen the legislature and its processes and our democracy as a whole.
“I consider everyone a friend and colleague and urge that as we collectively work towards a stronger legislature and strive to deepen our democracy, we do not pull back the hands of the clock or lose sight of the enormous responsibility placed upon us by providence as members of a critical arm of government.”
Meanwhile, Leaders of the All Progressives Congress on Tuesday met with the former chairman of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, over the unfolding budget padding scandal in the house.
The party had said that it sent an invitation letter because Mr. Jibrin deliberately made himself inaccessible by phone.
On Tuesday, Mr. Jibrin said he could not be reached because he had gone underground to avoid an “attempt by quartet of Speaker Dogara and others who were determined to kidnap me”.
He later met behind closed doors with the party’s national deputy chairman, North, Lawal Shuaibu; national secretary, Mala Buni; and vice-chairman, North-West, Inuwa Abdulkadiri.
Mr. Shuaibu said the party had already met with the speaker of the house, Yakubu Dogara, whom Mr. Jibrin accuses of budget fraud.
He said the party was not in a position to pass judgement on the fraud allegation.
He denied that the party was planning to sanction Mr. Jibrin for his relentless media campaign against Mr. Dogara and others.
“There is nothing like passing any judgment on any member of the party,” Mr. Shuaibu said. “We only play our role as the umpire in this matter to see how we can create some atmosphere of peace and unity among our members.”
He continued, “I was reading today in your paper that we called him to discipline him; discipline him on what? Whatever happens in the House of Representatives or the Senate under the constitution and their rules, they are immune.
“But when certain things go, of course, the party needs to call its members to know how best to unite any feuding members and that is exactly what we did.
“I want to say what we discussed honestly speaking was to get a better brief because we have to be carried along. They are our members, we should know from them directly what is really going on, so that we can see how we can handle the situation without necessary making it a town square dance.”
He said the party would continue to engage Messrs Dogara and Jibrin, suggesting a peace deal had not been brokered yet.
“We are discussing with them and it is an ongoing consultation. We are not done with them, we sat with the speaker; we just finished sitting with him (Jibrin) and we would continue to sit.
Mr. Jibrin said, “I’m here on the invitation of our great party, the APC. We discussed extensively on the crisis in the house of representatives. We will continue to discuss and engage ourselves (sic). I will continue to honour the invitation of our party and I am sure that whatever it is we decide you will know in the due course,” he said.