A new alliance of lawmakers, called Transparency Group, which emerged in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, has said its call for sweeping investigation in the House is not driven by politics.
The House is facing its latest scandal after the appropriation chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who left office last week, revealed shocking details of alleged budget fraud against the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and other key members.
The new group weighed in on Wednesday demanding that both sides be investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC “We are not Gbajabiamila’s group,” the group said, referring to the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, who contested but lost the speakership election to Mr. Dogara.
“We are not Dogara’s group; and we are not Jibrin’s group,” the new group’s spokesperson, Mohammed Soba (APC-Kaduna) told PREMIUM TIMES on phone Wednesday night. “Our main purpose is that there is transparency in the House.”
Mr. Soba said the group would push for an emergency resumption of the House to address the “criminal matter” of “budget padding” which he said could not be investigated internally.
The budget scandal in the troubled House involves counter accusations of corrupt practices and breach of public trust, especially during 2016 budget passage process.
Mr. Jibrin says the speaker worked with the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; Whip, Alhassan Doguwa; and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, to embed fictitious projects into the budget.
The spokesperson of the House, Abdulrazaq Namdas, has denied the allegations against the individuals, and in turn accused Mr. Jibrin of corruption and blackmail.
The so-called Transparency Group said Mr. Namdas should stop defending Mr. Dogara through the institution of the House.
“Namdas should not speak on our behalf as far this controversy is concerned because the allegations are not made against the House. Jibrin’s allegations are directed at the Speaker and other Principal Officers,” Mr. Soba said.
“There is controversy over budget padding as a result of which chairman of appropriations committee was sacked, he was actually removed. Then he now came with allegations against the Speaker and some Principal Officers. So Dogara, the Speaker, is now using the House spokesman to speak on the issue against what Abdulmumin (Jibrin) is saying. And what we are saying Namdas should not.”
The group demanded “independent” investigation into what it said was a criminal offence against the Nigerian people.
The group said the House Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee was not fit to entertain the matter because its chairman and members are appointees of Mr. Dogara.
“We are demanding independent investigation into the allegations because this matter is purely criminal. Padding of the budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is criminal. So nobody should expect us to fold our arms to watch the appointees of the Speaker investigate the Speaker in the name of the Ethics and Privileges Committee,” Mr. Soba said.
Asked to clarify what he meant by “independent investigation”, he said, “investigation from outside the House, and replied “Yes!” When our correspondent suggested Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“The issue of the budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is beyond the House. It’s not an internal affairs of the House,” he added, opposing Ethics Committee Chairman, Nicholas Ossai’s position that the budget scandal remained an internal affair of the House.
Also, Mr. Ossai had argued that it was wrong to say National Assembly “padded” budget; rather, he said the legislators only “amended” appropriation bill (proposed budget) like any other bill.
Transparency Group says it has 113 members who are cooperating to “ask all those at the centre of the controversy to face the allegations in line with criminal justice system,” Mr. Soba said.
“Our next move is to put heat on the Speaker to reconvene the House immediately so that we discuss this issue of national importance. We then take decision on the floor of the House on what line of action to be taken,” said Mr. Soba.
Asked to give names of some members of the Transparency Group, he mentioned, Abubakar Adamu (APC-Niger); Bashir Babale (APC-Kano); Ayo Omidiran (APC-Osun), Rotimi Agunsoye (APC-Lagos).
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