Against what it described as “breaching privileges of members,” the House of Representatives last week suspended former Chairman Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin for 180 legislative days.
The move, which has since been trailed by different controversies and uproar among political observers across the country, followed several allegations by Jibrin against the leadership of the House of Representatives on what he called padding of the 2016 budget.
Since the pronouncement of the suspension, keen political pundits, who have been critically following the political drama since Jibrin made public the allegations against the House leadership in July, believed that the suspension handed down to Jibrin was a means by those he accused to curtail him from exposing their evils at the green chamber.
JIBRIN’S TRAVAILS AND SUSPENSION
Shortly after he was removed as chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House, just before the House went on recession, Hon Jibrin went to town with gory details of budget padding and corrupt enrichment allegations against the leadership of the House of Representatives, specifically, Speaker of the House, Dogara, and three other principal officers, the Deputy Speaker, Hon Lasun Yusuf; Chief Whip, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, among others.
On resumption from the recess last week, the House mandated its Ethics and Privileges Committee to look into what some members described as infringing on their privileges by Jubrin’s sweeping allegation. The committee was given one week to complete its assignment.
After the committee submitted its report through its chairman, Hon. Nicholas Ossai, to the committee of the whole House, its recommendations were fully adopted by the House. Apart from the suspension for 180 legislative days, Jibrin will also not be able to hold any position of responsibility for the span of the current National Assembly.
Jibrin began stirring the hornets’ nest of 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.
“AS SOME STALWARTS OF THE PARTY ARE PREPARING FOR A NEW ERA IN THE PDP, IT IS GLARING THAT SOME OF ITS ACTORS IN ONDO STATE HAVE BECOME APPREHENSIVE OF WHAT MAY BECOME OF THEM IN THE FORTHCOMING GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION IN THE STATE”
Although the House was taking a two-month recess at the time, Hon. 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,” he said.
He said the campaign had earned him “blackmail, propaganda and campaign of calumny” from the Speaker, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara, lawmakers loyal to him and their proxies.
The assault had been largely targeted at the Speaker of the House, Dogara, and three other principal officers, the Deputy Speaker, Hon Yusuf; Chief Whip, Hon. Doguwa and the Minority Leader, Ogor, anad some chairmen of House committees, who Jibrin alleged massive fraud and corrupt practices against.
Dogara had announced the removal of Jibrin House Appropriation Committee chairman in a speech he read in plenary on July 20, alleging budget fraud and serial betrayal of trust.
To back his allegations against Dogara and others, 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 Jibrin raised the alarm that Dogara had allegedly concluded plans to cart away computers and destroy evidence.
He also visited law enforcement agencies, including the the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the SSS and the police, where he said he personally submitted petitions detailing evidence of fraudulent manipulation of budget by Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa, Ogor, and nine others.
After several days of silence, Dogara succumbed to public pressure on him to defend himself and he came out with blistering statements denying all the allegations against him. Dogara specifically took up the ‘budget padding’ catchphrase, saying it was a strange term to use when describing the actions of the legislature.
He also said lawmakers could not be probed by law enforcement agencies over any infractions in the National Assembly, but later retracted this statement.
At some point, the ruling All Progressives Congress moved to contain the crisis, but its gag order lasted only a weekend.
Consequently, lawmakers began openly criticising Jibrin for allegedly defacing the National Assembly, dealing a major blow to his crusade. Jibrin’s isolation became even more pronounced after 10 principal officers of the House released a statement backing Dogara and denouncing Jibrin.
Amongst them was Femi Gbajabiamila, the Majority Leader, who many thought would be reluctant to openly back Dogara.
The development sparked speculation that Jibrin would be suspended upon resumption of the House from recess.
The House resumed on September 20 and a lawmaker loyal to Dogara Emmanuel Orker-Jev, moved a motion the next day to have Jibrin probed for allegedly breaching the privileges of the members. Orker-Jev, (APC-Benue), proposed tough sanctions against 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,” Orker-Jev said.
The House subsequently assigned the matter to its Ethics and Privileges Committee for further investigation and report back within a week with its findings and recommendations.
Ossai, chairman of the committee, convened the first hearing on the matter on September 23, during which Orker-Jev submitted his allegations against Jibrin.
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. He also asked his lawyer, Femi Falana, to seek discontinuation of committee’s activities in court.
Ossai said Jibrin’s failure to appear before his “properly and constitutionally constituted committee” was, in effect, a defence.
Alleging subjudice, Jibrin said the committee should not have sat since the matter was in court.
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 for duration of his suspension.
JIBRIN’S RESPONSE TO SUSPENSION
Reacting to the punishment handed down to him, Jibrin said, “Predictably, Speaker Dogara ensured I was ‘suspended’ from the House.
I wish to state that the suspension is unfounded as the entire process is flawed. The so called suspension is ridiculous, a non-issue and a bunch of nonsense that cannot stand anywhere in the world.
“As you are aware, the matter is a subject of litigation, I have instructed my lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, to file charges of contempt against Speaker Dogara and of course the House of Representatives.
“Let me state very clearly that I will never ever apologise to anybody in the House of Representatives. There is no reason what so ever to apologise. I did not commit any offense. I did not abuse my office. I have said it repeatedly that in the five years that I have served in the House of Representatives, I have never corruptly enriched myself.
“In contrast, these are allegations that I raised against Mr Speaker, three principal officers and few other committee chairmen, to which they have not responded till date.
“The bad news for Speaker Dogara and his corrupt cabal is despite doing their worst and exhausted their bullets by ‘suspending’ me, it has not in any way changed the fact that the Speaker conspired with some principal officers to commit monumental budget fraud, corruption and abuse of their various offices.
“I stand by all the allegations I raised. I wish to state categorically clear that there exist chronic individual and systemic corruption in the House, which has made it difficult for members to assert their independence. It is on the strength of such weak institution that Speaker Dogara continue to flaunt a fake popularity in the House of Representatives. In the next few days I will provide proof of shocking systemic corruption in the House.
“In the next few days, Nigerians will know how much the House stinks of corruption. I shall continue this struggle to expose corruption in the House, push for reforms and ensure that justice is served on Speaker Dogara and others.
REACTIONS TRAIL HOUSE DECISION
Political watchers across the country are apprehensive, believing that the House decision was politically inclined, especially looking at the reason given by the House for suspending the lawmaker.
They opined that the House ought to have eschewed flimsy excuse used to nail Jibrin and investigate various allegations on budget padding raised by the lawmaker against the House leadership if they have the love of the country at heart.
“I STAND BY ALL THE ALLEGATIONS I RAISED. I WISH TO STATE CATEGORICALLY CLEAR THAT THERE EXIST CHRONIC INDIVIDUAL AND SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION IN THE HOUSE”
Pundits argue further that the suspension of the lawmaker will definitely lead to unexpected expectations in this House, especially at this time that Hon. Jibril has approached the court for legal action against the punishment meted out to him in the House.
A legal practitioner, Jide Adesina, told The Point that the suspension defines the conspiracy theory of the ruling class against the masses, saying, “The move by the House against Jibrin is totally wrong, and I see it as political. The suspension defines the conspiracy theory of the ruling class against the masses. A man exposed alleged criminal activities perpetrated by some people and what do we have; the man is being hunted by those he exposed. I don’t think Jibrin should be hunted. I think the issues he raised should be properly investigated. The hastiness in seeing that Jibrin is nailed at all cost underlines what I call the conspiracy theory against the Nigerian masses. The leadership of the House has not done the right thing. It should have set up a committee to investigate the allegations raised by Jibrin. The Speaker and the leadership of the House must come clean in this matter. They must prove to Nigerians that they are above board by truly investigating the allegations. The allegations thrown up by Jibrin will continue to haunt the House. Rather than try to silence Jibrin by force, the House should have provided a pedestal for Jibrin to prove his case.”
Another senior lawyer who also spoke on the issue, George Eke, said the move by members of the House of Representatives is conspiracy of the highest order in other to cover their evil paths which Jibrin has already exposed to Nigerians.
Eke said Nigerians should be disappointed in the set of people representing their interest at top government level with their height of corruption and other infractions.
“I am totally disappointed that the so called people at the House of Representatives could come out as they did in the case that involved Jibrin. We were all thinking that the allegations raised by the man will be investigated, but only for them to turn around to nab the man for raising alarm over their evil deeds in the House. They claimed that the man abused the House privileges by speaking to the media and raising alarm over their various wrong deeds, but the question is why didn’t they leave that one and take a step to investigate the allegations raised against the members?”
Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Abdulrasaq Namdas, has justified the House’s decision for suspending Jibrin.
In a chat with The Point, Namdas said, “Jibrin violated the rules of the House. Instead of making his grievances known to the House through petition, he feels comfortable relating with external institutions outside the House. His actions so far, and his decision for not appearing before the committee instituted to investigate the case justified his sanction.”
As things stand, the end to the saga may not be in sight, as both gladiators are digging deep into their various positions.
But while the brickbats fly around, political pundits have asked the motive behind Jibrin’s whistle blowing? They argued that he would have kept quiet if he had remained the chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House and that he only chose to open up on the alleged corrupt practices after he was removed from office as Appropriation Committee chairman.
Who blinks first? The House of Representatives or Hon Jibrin? Only time will tell.