Budget Padding Scandal: Jibrin celebrates one month of titanic battle with Speaker Dogara, others

A former chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, on Sunday, marked a month since the budget padding scandal broke out.

Mr. Jibrin began stirring 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.

Mr. Jibrin said he had managed to remain resolute in his quest to end the massive corruption in the House, an endeavour he said earned him “blackmail, propaganda and campaign of calumny.”

“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,” Mr. Jibrin said in an email to PREMIUM TIMES Sunday.

Mr. Jibrin’s campaign had been largely targeted at the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, and three other principal officers, whose resignation and prosecution he had continued to demand.

Mr. Dogara had announced the removal of Mr. Jibrin in a speech he read in plenary on July 20, alleging budget fraud and serial betrayal of trust .

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Mr. Jibrin denied the allegations and accused Mr. Dogara of supervising more than N40 billion in fraudulent insertions to the 2016 budget.

To proof his allegations against Mr. Jibrin, Mr. Dogara 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 Mr. Jibrin raised the alarm that Mr. Dogara had allegedly concluded plans to cart away computers and destroy evidence.

Mr. Jibrin also visited law enforcement agencies, including the EFCC, the SSS and the police, where he said he personally submitted petitions detailing evidence of fraudulent manipulation of budget by Mr. Dogara, his deputy Yusuf Lasun, House Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, and nine others.

After several days of silence, Mr. Dogara succumbed to public demands for him to defend himself by coming out with blistering statements denying all the charges against him.

Mr. Dogara took specific issue with 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.

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He later backed down on that position.

Nigerians and civic organisations weighed in on the matter, demanding Mr. Dogara’s resignation from office.

At some point, the APC moved to contain the crisis, but its gag order lasted only a weekend.

In his statement on Sunday, Mr. Jibrin showed no indication of shifting grounds.

“The truth remains that Speaker Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa, Ogor and others committed monumental fraud in the 2016 budget which can be prosecuted under our laws,” adding that they “have completely lost the moral ground to continue in their various offices.”

Mr. Jibrin also decried the deplorable dimension corruption had taken in the House, a body he had belonged to since 2011 when he was first elected.

“I dare say corruption in the House of Representatives today is more than that of the Executive and Judiciary combined.”

Mr. Jibrin’s campaign took a major hit on Thursday after 10 principal officers of the House released a statement siding Mr. Dogara and denounce the ex-appropriation chair.

Amongst them was Femi Gbajabiamila, the Majority Leader who many thought would be reluctant to openly back Mr. Dogara.

Mr. Gbajabiamila had maintained a neutral position in public since the scandal broke, occasionally issuing mostly vague remarks about it.

Although Mr. Jibrin did not immediately launch open attacks against Mr. Gbajabiamila, he indicated that the majority leader and some of his colleagues may have been coerced to line up in solidarity with Mr. Dogara.

Mr. Gbajabiamila later said his decision to back Mr. Dogara was to give the speaker and his accused colleagues the benefit of the doubt that they were innocent until proven guilty.

“We shall go on and continue to expose corruption and corrupt persons in the House. I have said repeatedly that I will continue this struggle even if I’m alone,” Mr. Jibrin said.

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