By Umar Muhammad Puma and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Strong indications emerged yesterday that the House of Representatives may today suspend the former chairman House Committee on Appropriation, Rep Abdulmumin Jibrin.
This is not unconnected with the raging battle between the House leadership and Jibrin over the embarrassing issue of budget padding.
Pointer to this is the fact that, the lawmakers in the House of Representatives that comprise the Transparency Group, have summoned Jibrin to appear before them today to explain the role he played in the alleged budget padding scandal rocking the green chamber.
The decision of the group was reached after an emergency meeting in Abuja yesterday, with over 80 lawmakers in attendance, insisting also that the Speaker Yakubu Dogara must resign to allow for proper investigation on the matter.
A lawmaker who attended the meeting told our correspondent that the members of the group have resolved to investigate the matter with the aim of finding out the truth on the alleged budget padding scandal.
“We had a meeting yesterday, with over 80 people in attendance, while over 30 lawmakers sent their apologies for not being able to attend. We also have in attendance some PDP lawmakers. What we want is for the Speaker Yakubu Dogara to step aside. We are not witch hunting anybody, all we need is the truth. We decided to summon Jibril In order to hear his own side of the story.
On the alleged plan by lawmaker to pass a vote of confidence on the Speaker, the lawmaker said “We will resist any plan to pass vote of confidence at the plenary, we would wait for the matter to be raised during plenary, but If they refuse, we will raised it.
The group had claimed to have collected signatures of over 100 members cut across the six geopolitical zones and across party line.
“Our demands are simple, the matter must be investigated, anything short of that will not be accepted by us,” he said.
Rep Jibril had since July 21, a day after he was ousted as Chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, levelled several allegations against the Speaker, his deputy, 11 four other principal and more than a dozen other lawmakers, saying they fraudulently padded the budget to the tune of N40 billion.
The call for Jibrin’s suspension was echoed yesterday by another group, Coalition In Defence of Democracy (CDD), which also urged Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to immediately commence probe of Rep n Jibrin over alleged ownership of a bank account and company in the United Kingdom.
The group, in a statement signed by its convener, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere yesterday, while calling on the House to suspend Jibrin for “blackmail” of its leadership, said “we demand that the Attorney General of the Federation immediately commence the prosecution of Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin for his violation of section 24 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act”, a law it cited as prohibiting publication of certain statements which falsely or scandalously defames a legislative house, or any of its committee.
The group further urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) to also charge him on his recent admittance to illegally receiving N650 million in the House of Representatives as a member.
“We shall by 10.00am tomorrow (this morning) submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau, EFCC, a detailed petition against Hon. Jibrin on the allegation of maintenance and operation of a foreign account and being a director in a company in the United Kingdom while being a Nigerian Public Officer, an act which is clearly against the provisions of our Constitution…,” the CDD submitted.
Indications emerged late Sunday evening, through the anti-corruption unit of the National Youth Council, that Jibrin owns and operates a bank account in Channels Island in the UK to the tune of £1.56 million, as well as a company in the same country.
Jibrin had however, in a reaction denied the allegations, describing the said documents as “FAKE”.
He explained that “I DO NOT own such account or balance, neither do I have anything whatsoever to do with the said address at Essex.”
The group which raised the allegations against Jibrin has insisted that it stands by its words. “We want to state that we stand by the allegation as we have obtained incontrovertible facts that indeed, Jibrin owns and operates the said account with ING bank in Channels Island, United Kingdom.”
Meanwhile, the senate will today resume plenary session after its two months recess, as lawmakers of both chambers are expected to dwell on the economic recession and the militancy in the Niger Delta region which has bedevilled in the country.
A statement from the media office of the Senate President, which confirmed this, said the Senate President’s speech will announce that the Senate will focus the majority of its legislative days on solutions to tackling the recession and the timely passage of the 2017 federal budget.
“During our annual recess, myself and many of my colleagues in the Senate returned to our constituencies to witness the severe impact of the economic downturn on local communities,” the Senate President said, “The conditions on ground demand that we put forth our best efforts to get the economy moving and people back to work.”
The statement noted that since the commencement of the recess, Nigeria has officially fallen into recession, adding that last Friday, Standard and Poors (S&P) downgraded Nigeria’s credit rating.
“Additionally, inflation has caused the price of basic food items to skyrocket severely impacting the availability of food in many households that live below the poverty line”, it said.
It pointed out that the Senate President believes the current economic crisis demands all elected leaders to put aside partisan interests to promote the well being of the nation.
His Excellency noted that “the process of reviving our economy must be an inclusive one. The best minds in government, business, and academia must be brought together to find solutions. We have analyzed the problems extensively,