Budget padding Scandal: House Responds To Jibrin’s Allegations
TEXT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON MEDIA & PUBLICITY, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HON. ABDULRAZAK NAMDAS ON 26 JULY 2016:
You will recall that on Wednesday, July 20, 2016, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin was removed from his position as Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and replaced by Hon. Mustapha Bala Dawaki. This was done in exercise of the powers conferred on Mr. Speaker by the House Rules to appoint and remove Committee Chairmen and Deputies in consultation with the House Leadership.
On that occasion, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had stated that Jibrin’s removal was a decision of the House Leadership and that incidentally, after that decision, Hon. Abdulmumin himself approached him on the floor of the House, just before he made the announcement, notifying him that the pressure on him was beyond what he could bear and that he no longer desired to continue as Chairman.
Strangely, after this, Hon. Abdulmumin went into a press war in which he is maligning, misrepresenting and denigrating the Speaker, the Leadership, the entire members of the House and indeed the House of Representatives as an institution.
It has become imperative that we clarify some of the issues he has raised to set the record straight.
2. SOME REASONS WHY HON. ABDULMUMIN JIBRIN WAS REMOVED:
His removal was based on sundry acts of misconduct, incompetence, immaturity, total disregard for his colleagues and abuse of the budgetary process, among others.
a. Immaturity and lack of capacity to handle the Office of Chairman, Appropriations:
One of the fundamental reasons why the House Leadership removed him is that, he was found not to be fit and proper person to hold such a sensitive office which exposes him to high officials of government at all levels.
Furthermore, in the course of the performance of his duties as Chairman of Appropriations Committee, it became evident that he does not possess the temperament and maturity required for such a high office.
b. Tendency and proclivity to blackmail colleagues and high government officials and misuse and mishandle sensitive government information:
He was in the habit of collating, warehousing and manipulating sensitive information to blackmail people sometimes apparently for pecuniary purposes. And by virtue of his position as Appropriations Chairman, he usually met with very high and senior public officers at all levels.
The Speaker and the Leadership were inundated with complaints by heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) over harassment from the House Appropriations Chairman to engage in conduct and acts unbecoming of their offices.
The Leadership lunched an internal investigation into these allegations and was largely satisfied that action had to be taken to remove him, in the interest of the integrity of the House.
One clear example is the insertion of Funds for the so called Muhammadu Buhari Film Village in his Constituency in Kano without the consent or solicitation of Mr. President. This has brought both Mr. President and the government to disrepute.
Again, it was found out that he was fond of inserting projects into prominent persons’ constituencies without their knowledge to curry favour and possibly use it as a means of blackmail against them when necessary.
One of such is the numerous projects he claimed in a Channels TV interview in April 2016, to have cited in Mr. President’s home town of Daura, Katsina State without Mr. President’s solicitation or knowledge, in a desperate attempt to blackmail Mr. President as an answer and justification for allocation of N4.1 billion to his constituency when confronted by the interviewer.
He did not stop there. Hon Abdulmumin went about soliciting Honourable members to nominate projects for him to help them include in the Budget. When called upon to defend his actions as Appropriation’s Chairman, all he did was to be calling names of those members and the amount he helped include for them in the Budget in an unsuccessful bid to silence them. Most of the affected members took serious exceptions to his despicable antics and sundry acts of blackmail and protested to the Leadership to prevail on Hon Abdulmumin to expunge from the Budget what he claimed he allocated to them since they did not solicit for those projects.
To attempt to drag the name of Mr President, Honourable members and others to his new low through sundry acts of blackmail was one of the matters the House Leadership found off limits and totally unacceptable.
c. Unacceptable Mismanagement of the 2016 Budgetary Process:
i. It was also discovered that the former Chairman, Appropriations, discreetly and clandestinely allocated monies for projects that are not clearly defined in the budget for the purposes of exploiting the ambiguities for personal gains.
ii. Furthermore, he was found to be responsible for some bogus allocations in the budget for projects that have no locations and were apparently never meant to be executed.
iii. Hon. Jibrin’s mishandling of the 2016 budget process nearly fractured the otherwise cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature and brought the National Assembly and the government to public ridicule.
iv. For reasons that were not noble and not in the Public Interest, Hon Abdulmumin had initially inflated the Budget by adding about N250b more to the total figure as submitted by Mr President. This, the National Assembly Leadership out rightly rejected as a form of financial recklessness and inability to appreciate the dwindling resources available to government necessitating that we act prudently. He was directed therefore to make even further cuts below Mr Presidents total figure.
v. Hon Abdulmumin, in his desperation to ingratiate himself into the good books of the Presidency, unilaterally entered into commitments on the structure of the Budget, without the knowledge of the National Assembly Leadership, in the full knowledge, not only that he had no authority to do so, but dishonestly had no intentions of keeping to those commitments, having done the exact opposite in processing the budget details. This brought the House into disrepute as it portrayed the National Assembly and its leadership as persons who couldn’t keep their word.
vi. He displayed crass ineptitude and general lack of capacity to handle the work, thereby serving as a clog in the appropriations process. He contributed significantly to the delays in the passage of the Appropriation Bill. No one, not even his Deputy and Members of the Appropriations Committee, could reach him at certain periods during the budget process.
Indeed on the last day of the exercise, he went underground to avoid being compelled to show areas he had hidden most of the cuts he claimed he made, an act which amounted to gross insubordination and an attempt to hold captive, all involved in the budget chain to the point of entirely frustrating the passage of the Budget.
The tripartite Committee of the Senate, House and Executive thus completed the 2016 Budget without Hon Abdulmumin as he was hiding, believing that the job could not be done without him.
vii. Confirming some of the reasons for his removal and true to type, Hon Abdulmumin has since after his sack, resorted to blackmail, his stock in trade. He has released documents from dubious sources in a desperate bid to lure gullible members of the public to his side. Mr Speaker’s inputs to the 2016 Budget was signed and delivered to him. If he has honour, let him release the signed inputs of Mr Speaker and not pieces of paper that bears no acknowledged authorship. Our counsel to Hon Abdulmumin is for him to be real as a man by bringing up credible, authentic and verifiable documents or stubborn facts which disclose the commission of crime on the part of any Member or Leader of the House. If he can’t, then let him go and sulk in secret over his sack.
3. LOSS OF CREDIBILITY:
a. It also came to the knowledge of Leadership that the allocations for these developmental projects meant for the Appropriations and Finance Committees’ members were neither disclosed nor properly and equitably distributed by Hon. Jibrin to them which contributed to massive agitations for his removal.
b. The Leadership was also in receipt of complaints about his activities as Chair of Finance Committee in the 7th Assembly, which had potentials to embarrass the House because of his current position as Chair of the Appropriations Committee. Investigations found that from 2011 – 2015 Hon Abdulmumin domiciled with Hadejia – Jama’are River Basin Authority and few other MDAs some of the allocations meant for his former Finance Committee members some of whom are still members of the 8th Assembly. He was alleged to have aided the use of front companies that collected funds without executing most of the projects. The Projects have been compiled and will at the appropriate time be referred to the Anti Graft Agencies to establish why the projects were fully paid for and not executed, who collected the funds and why has Hon Abdulmumin not raised any alarm about the non execution of the projects even now?
c. Twice, in Executive Sessions, members unanimously and vehemently demanded that the Speaker remove Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin from the Appropriations Committee for gross abuse of his position as Chairman.However, the Speaker, tried to manage the situation but members did not relent on their agitations for his removal not only for gross abuse of his position but also for the poor and incompetent handling of 2016 appropriation process.
d. The Leadership also observed with embarrassment that since his mismanagement of 2016 Budget process, every time Hon Abdulmumin gets up to speak on the floor of the House, there was spontaneous chorus of ole! ole,! ole! or thief! thief! thief! Barawo! Barawo! Barawo! from Hon. members which climaxed in a motion to have him removed as Chairman, Appropriations.
e. It is regrettably true that Hon Abdulmumin was entrusted with critical aspects of the budget, but he is not the sole author of the budget as he appears to be portraying himself. Every reasonable person knows that it is a bare faced lie. His stories without corroboration from anyone who was deeply involved in the Budget process is, mere tales by moon light, a fitting story for bed time. If he has any witness, let them speak up in his support. Apparently, he doesn’t know that no one can be convicted even in the court of public opinion based on the evidence of one man.
4. ZONAL/CONSTITUENCY INTERVENTION PROJECTS IS NOT PADDING:
Zonal/Constituency Intervention Projects have their origins in constitutional provisions as encapsulated in the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy requiring the government to ensure equitable distribution of resources and infrastructure.
The idea of Zonal/Constituency Intervention projects arose as a result of the need to carry every part of the country along in allocation of projects in the budget, and to address the imbalance in line with federal character principles as enshrined in the Constitution.
In recent years, there has always been standing lump sum allocation for the implementation of Zonal/Constituency Intervention Projects in every budget proposal from Mr. President including the 2016 budget, as mutually agreed between the Executive and the Legislature.
The entire annual budget estimates once presented by Mr. President, is referred to the Appropriations Committee for further legislative input and scrutiny at the conclusion of the Second Reading.
While it is prerogative of National Assembly members to decide the projects and their locations, it is the prerogative of the relevant MDAs to choose the contractors, award the projects and to execute. For emphasis, the general impression that monies are given to members of the National Assembly to execute projects is incorrect and unfounded.
The allocation of the funds earmarked for Zonal/Constituency intervention projects has customarily and traditionally been distributed between the Senate and the House in the ratio of 40-60 as done in the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Assemblies.
The leadership of both Chambers, including the Appropriations and Finance Committees are normally and traditionally allocated certain percentages of these funds, for inclusion in the Appropriation Bill for projects. The remaining are distributed to members of the National Assembly for inclusion of their preferred projects in the Budget. This has also been the established tradition over the years.
For the avoidance of doubt, the 8th House of Representatives under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has not deviated from established practices, precedents and traditions in this matter.
It is necessary to emphasise that these budgetary allocations are meant for developmental projects under the purview of these leaders in their Constituencies and at other levels and not for their personal benefit. And certainly they are not allocations of money or contracts! These projects include roads, bridges, water supply, electricity, schools, skill acquisitions etc. They are projects that can be located either in the Exclusive Legislative List or Concurrent List.
It should be noted also that arising from oversight and House Resolutions on specific critical needs, the Leadership is obliged to accommodate some projects that may have been omitted or are not captured in Mr. President’s proposal.
5. POWERS OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ON APPROPRIATION:
The powers of the National Assembly on appropriation are clearly spelt out in Sections 4, 59 and 80 (4) of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 4, empowers the National Assembly to make laws for good governance of the federation while Section 59 confers on the Legislature final say on the budget.
Section 80 (4) on the other hand, which confers on the legislature absolute power of control over public funds, states that: “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, EXCEPT IN THE MANNER PRESCRIBED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY”. The word MANNER confers absolute legislative discretion.
When therefore, the National Assembly appropriates funds in the budget, it CAN NEVER under any circumstances or guise be deemed or regarded as tinkering or padding.
The legislature is therefore constitutionally incapable of padding the budget.
What the Executive submits are mere estimates and proposal as stipulated in Section 81 (1). It is obvious that the Constitution uses the word ESTIMATES advisedly. Consequently, it is therefore an exhibition of crass ignorance, abuse of language, outright mischief and or blackmail for a legislator especially one who chaired the Appropriations Committee to use the word PADDING to describe the action of parliament on the budget.
The removal, introduction of projects or the amendment of Mr. President’s estimates in the Appropriation Bill CANNOT AND SHOULD NEVER BE CONSTRUED AS AN ACT OF CORRUPTION OR IMPROPRIETY because it is at the core of appropriation powers of the National Assembly as aptly enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. It is therefore clear, that no crime or wrong doing can be legitimately imputed on the actions or conduct of Mr. Speaker, the Leadership or Members of the House of Representatives before, during and after the passage of the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
After the House Leadership reviewed all the issues raised above, it was left with no option but to respect the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Hon. Members to remove Hon Abdulmumin as Chairman, Appropriations Committee of the House. It was clear to the entire Leadership that in this government of change, Hon Abdulmumin lacks the character and credentials to chair the House Committee on Appropriations.
I am aware that in accordance with the Rules of the House, this matter will at the appropriate time go to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges where Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin will be afforded the opportunity of fair hearing.
Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas
House of Representatives Committee on on Media & Publicity