N481bn Budget Padding: Court Asks Buhari To Order Prosecution Of Lawmakers

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to order the prosecution of lawmakers found culpable in the padding of the 2016 Budget and alleged stealing of about N481billion.

The judgment was delivered on Monday by Justice Mohammed Idris following a suit by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

It ordered that President Buhari should “urgently instruct security and anti-corruption agencies to forward to him reports of their investigations into allegations of padding of some N481 billion from the 2016 budget by some principal officers of the National Assembly.”

The Court also ordered the President to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, and/or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to without delay commence prosecution of indicted lawmakers and direct the publication of the report of investigations by security and anti-corruption bodies into the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.

READ ALSO: Shehu Sani Lists Successes, Failures Of Buhari’s Administration

Justice Idris further held that President Buhari should “urgently halt alleged attempt by some principal officers of the National Assembly to steal N40 billion of the N100 billion allocated by his government as ‘zonal intervention’ in the 2017 budget.”

The Court held that “SERAP, being a human rights non-governmental organization has sufficient interest in the way and manner public funds are being utilized in this country.”

SERAP, reacting to the judgment in a statement on Tuesday by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, said, “This judgment confirms the pervasive corruption in the budget process and the prevailing culture of impunity of our lawmakers as well as the failure of the authorities to uphold transparency and accountability in the entire budget process and implementation.

“The judgment is an important step towards reversing a culture of corruption in the budget process that has meant that many of our lawmakers see the budget more as a ‘meal ticket’ to look after themselves than a social contract to meet people’s needs and advance equity and development across the country.”

Court Nullifies Jibrin’s Suspension, Orders Payment Of His Salaries

Abdulmumin Jibrin

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has nullified the suspension of a former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin.

The House of Representatives had suspended Mr Jibrin for 180 legislative days on September 28, 2016. Mr Jibrin, who has served the suspension and rejoined his colleagues, had challenged the decision after his suspension.

But it wasn’t until Thursday that the court delivered judgement.

Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice John Tsoho, ruled that the suspension of the lawmaker is unconstitutional and ordered the House of Representatives to pay him all the salary due to him for the period he was unjustly suspended.

“The suspension was an interruption of his earning which will be automatically restored especially when it has been decided that the action was a nullity by virtue of granting prayers 1 and 3 of the originating summons,” he said.

“When an action is declared nullity it is deemed that it never happened.”
Jibrin had been suspended after he repeatedly accused the Speaker, Yakubu

Dogara, and other principal officers of the House of padding the 2016 budget with billions of naira, a claim they all denied.

Starting from July 2016, Jibrin had called for the removal of the principal officers and sent petitions against them to law enforcement agencies including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Justice Tsoho, however, saw things differently and agreed with Mr Jibrin’s lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) that his suspension was an attempt to gag him.

The judge said, “There is no better conclusion that the plaintiff was carrying out the mandate imposed on members by Chapter 7 (7.5) of the Code of Conduct for Honourable Members adopted on November 4, 2004.”

2018 Budget: NASS Should Play Its Roles Without Being Partisan – Abati

A former presidential spokesman, Mr Reuben Abati, has challenged the National Assembly to carry out its duties objectively and thoroughly in order to ensure a smooth process.

Mr Abati said this in reaction to the Senate’s rejection of the 2018 budget proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.

The Senate had complained that the 2018 Appropriation Bill was filled with inaccuracies, inconsistencies and was being padded.

While addressing the issue during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today, Mr Abati opined that if indeed the budget was being ‘padded’, it was the responsibility of the Senate to un-pad it.

“The job of the Senate, even if it has been presented with a budget that has been padded, is to un-pad it because it is a proposal and from being a bill, it becomes law.

“So the question to raise is this – how diligent has the National Assembly been, before raising these issues.

“How well has it investigated this alleged padding that it is bringing up. You might say that there are a lot of inconsistencies but before it is passed into law, it is part of its job to clean it up.”

Read Also: Senate Condemns 2018 Budget Proposal

Speaking further, Mr Abati said the response of the Senate might infact be a delibrate attempt to “demonise” certain persons.

“Look at the process, the MDA submits to the ministry, the ministry submits to the Ministry of Budget and Planning and from there it goes to the President who now lays the budget before the National Assembly. But I have seen in what we have read in the last 48 hours an attempt to demonise persons. In particular, the Ministry of Power, and to call Fashola names. I don’t think that is the way to go about it.

“What Nigerians expect is a thorough budgeting process and where there are mistakes, the National Assembly is expected to play its oversight role without being partisan or indolent,” he added.

Also reacting to the situation, the President’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Eniang, dismissed the claims that the budget had been padded.

According to him, the term ‘padding’ describes an unlawful insertion into a lawful document but in this case, the document presented before the Red Chamber, was only a proposal yet to be passed.

“I think it is not a disappointment for the president’s economic team because when a budget is presented to the legislature, what is presented there is a budget proposal and it is for the legislature to consider it and pass it as it deems fit. I understand padding to be an unlawful insertion into a lawful document – A document that has become legitimate – has become law.

“Meanwhile what Mr President laid on the table of the National Assembly is a budget proposal and I do not for now understand what could be called padding because it is only if the budget is considered, passed, harmonized between the House and the Senate, transmitted to the President, it is assented into law and after assent, some other thing is added thereafter, that is what may be termed to constitute padding in law,” he stated.

Obaseki Orders Probe Of N283m Exam Budget

Obaseki Orders Probe Of N283m Exam Budget
File Photo: Godwin Obaseki

The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has ordered an immediate investigation into the N283m allegedly padded budget for the conduct of First School Leaving Certificate examination in the state.

The Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr Paul Ohonbamu, disclosed this during the weekly State Executive Council meeting held on Wednesday at the Government House in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

According to him, the governor has vowed to prosecute all those who are involved in the presentation of the padded budget when the examination was eventually conducted at the cost of N30m.

“A memo was sent to the governor for the conduct of the examination and N283m was earmarked for the examination which eventually cost N30; the governor is not comfortable with this. He has directed that those responsible for the disparity be identified and brought to book.”

Mr Ohonbamu hinted that the meeting reviewed the law setting up the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to keep pace with current realities in the basic education sub-sector.

He noted that Obaseki’s administration places a high premium on basic education – the foundation of the education system – and is committed to reorganising it to deliver quality education to the state.

The commissioner said that Council has also agreed that the distribution of treated mosquito nets be flagged off in the state on Friday, August 11.

Budget Padding Is A ‘Misrepresentation Of Facts’ – Deputy Speaker

Yusuf Lasun, Reps, Budget Padding, 2016 Budget, House of RepresentativesThe Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Lasun Yusuf, has described as misrepresentation of facts, the widespread allegations of padding of the 2016 budget.

He said that contrary to rumours being peddled around the country, there was no section of the appropriation bill that was padded.

The lawmaker explained that the legislature had in exercise of the power conferred on it by the constitution, reallocated figure in the budget estimates as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He made the disclosure while delivering a lecture at the 17th edition of the media parliament of Kwara State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Mr Yusuf spoke on the ‘Challenges of Law-making and the Delivery of Dividend of Democracy in Nigeria’ during the gathering at the Abubakar Olusola Saraki Pen House in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

He explained that it was the exclusive preserve of the legislative arm to rework annual fiscal document tabled before it by the executive, stating that such document remains “an estimate and not real budget”.

The former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, who had blown the lid that some principal officers of the lower chamber of the National Assembly partook in the budget padding scam, was suspended from office.

His allegation had ignited public outrage against the National Assembly while the House maintained that the budget was not padded as alleged.

Abdulmumin Jibrin, House, Budget padding
Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin

Budget Padding Debacle

The Deputy Speaker, however, told the gathering in Ilorin that the allegations against the leadership of the House by the suspended lawmaker were of no effect and could not be substantiated, insisting that the House acted within its powers.

He stated that the House was empowered to reallocate and reconcile figures in the budget estimates that were believed not to be properly done.

Honourable Yusuf decried that many Nigerians were ignorant of the works of the legislative arm and were fond of passing verdict without verifiable facts on some allegations levelled against the lawmakers.

He explained further that it was the primary responsibility of the law-making body to scrutinise budget estimates submitted by the executive arm, adding that members could use the avenue to address pressing needs of their people.

“While the executive makes proposals on projects, programmes and expenditure for every year, the legislature finally approves figures that are spent.

“In the process, the legislature often interfaces with the executive to have certain projects and programmes form part of (the) budget.

“This is necessary as I have said earlier because the closeness of the legislator to the constituents must have emerged from that environment.

“It is critical that certain pressing areas requiring government attention are suggested and included in the estimates.

“Unfortunately, the poor understanding of the fine details of legislative practice anchored on the express provision of the constitution erroneously informed the so-called budget padding debacle which was a distraction to the polity.

“For instance, the case of 50-year-old Ojutu Bridge in my constituency that has great potentials in turning around the lives of my constituents,” Yusuf said.

Jibrin’s Suspension: Judge’s Absence Stalls Suit Against House

House of Representatives, Abdulmumuni Jibrin, Budget Padding, JudgeThe budget padding controversy in the House of Representatives seems to be far from ending soon, as the absence of the judge presiding over a case against the House stalled the sitting of the court.

Judge Idris Koko of the Federal High Court in Kano State had fixed ruling on the suit filed by residents of the Kiru/Bebeji federal constituency for Tuesday, December 20, but he did not show up.

The residents are challenging the authenticity of Speaker Yakubu Dogara the leadership of the House to suspend their representative, Abdulmumin Jibrin, from the National Assembly.

Representative Jibrin was suspended after he publicly accused Speaker Dogara and some other principal officers of the House of manipulating figures in the 2016 budget, an issue that led to his suspension from the House.

He described his suspension for 180 sitting days by the House as ‘completely inconsequential’, noting that the process that led to the decision of the House was a complete waste of time.

 

The lead counsel for Kofa constituency, Bashir Muqaddam, told reporters at the court premises on Tuesday that Justice Koko had gone for the Judges’ Conference holding in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

He noted that after returning from the conference, the judges would proceed for the Christmas and New Year vacations, adding that they are expected to resume on January 19, 2017.

Whistle Blowing Role

While the case had been fixed for January 18, 2017 for mentioning, the lawyer stated some of their requests in the suit.

“Our prayer seeks that the sum of two billion Naira be given to our client, Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin Kofa, as payment for damages to his reputation.

“When we resume on January 18, 2017, the case will come up for mentioning.

“We want to know whether his whistle blowing role in exposing how the 2016 budget was padded was in contradiction of any stipulated law of the land,” he stated.

Mr Muqaddam said the people of the constituency wanted “an immediate reinstatement of the suspended member and the court to also order for the payment of all his entitlements for the suspension period”.

Buhari Meets With Dogara Again

Buhari. DogaraPresident Muhammadu Buhari has met behind closed doors with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.

The meeting in the President’s office in the State House lasted for about one hour.

At the end of the meeting, Dogara declined to speak to journalists on the purpose of his visit.

Speaker Dogara was also among those who were honoured at the leadership awards alongside President Buhari earlier in the day.

He, however, left midway into the awards to attend to what the organizers called other pressing national calls but resurfaced in the Presidential Villa for the closed door meeting with the President.

Dogara had also last week paid a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari in the company of former speaker of the House and current Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal.

Similarly, the issues discussed at that meeting were not disclosed to journalists.

Budget Padding: Jibrin Plans More Revelations

Abdulmumin-Jibrin-To-Make-more-revelationsThe embattled former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, says he is not done with exposing what he calls ‘systemic corruption’ in the House of Representative.

Mr Jibrin said he would be speaking more on how members committed fraud during investigations in the days ahead.

He made the remarks on Monday at a media conference with journalists and bloggers in Abuja.

It was held to explain some issues regarding his allegations of corruption against principal officers of the House of Representatives.

‘Systemic Blackmail’

He told reporters that in his four years in the National Assembly, he had never seen where a standing Committee of the House on Education inserted 181 projects into the budget.

“On the aspect of individual corruption and issues of corruption, I have given a lot of instances with allegations against the Speaker and some other members of the House of Representatives.

“On the issue of systemic corruption in the next few days, I will be talking in a more indepth manner how investigative hearing and oversight are used to parpetrate corruption in the House.

“Also, you can imagine, isn’t it ridiculous that 360 members, nobody has the internal budget of the house copies. There is nothing that we did not do with Dogara to release the internal budget of the House.

“These are facts. He should come out in light and just say Jibrin is lying.

“I have been saying this thing for eight weeks, he hasn’t come out to talk,” he told reporters.

Mr Jibrin also alleged that lawmakers had kept quiet over the issue because there was ‘systemic blackmail’.

“They have swallowed allowances. So you cannot talk, even though they are unhappy about the situation. The leadership always use that as a blackmail,” he claimed.

According to him, apart from the allegations already contained in his petition to anti-graft agencies, he would be speaking to the public in the days ahead about how some individuals in investigative committees commit corruption with their office.

The lawmaker also explained the reasons for not appearing before the Ethics Committee that recommended his suspension as well as those he indicted in his petitions to the anti-graft agencies.

Mr Jibrin was suspended on September 28 by the House after he failed to appear before the Ethics Committee.

He had demanded that the hearing should be put on live TV, saying that it was the condition that must be met before he would appear.

After his suspension for 180 sitting days and subsequent lockdown of his office, the lawmaker filed a suit against the Speaker of the House, Mr Yakubu Dogara, claiming that the forwarding of the issue to the Ethics Committee contravened the law, as there was a subsisting suit on the issue.

Reacting to his suspension, Mr Jibrin said that the decision was completely inconsequential‘.

“Whatever product comes out of that process, as far as I am concerned, is completely inconsequential and cannot stand anywhere.

“The matter is in court and it is a matter of litigation,” he told Channels Television.

He had accused Mr Dogara and some other lawmakers of padding the 2016 budget.

Mr Dogara had denied the allegation, but at one point told reporters that padding was not an offence.

Abdulmumin Jibrin Dismisses Threat Of Suspension

Abdulmumin Jibrin, House, Budget paddingFormer chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Jibrin Abdulmumin, has dismissed the threat of possible suspension by the House of Representatives over allegations that he breached privileges of members.

According to the lawmaker, he had some weeks back commenced a case in court to prevent his being suspended by the House and the House is aware of the case.

Rep Jibrin said that any attempt to suspend him will be in contempt of court.

He also dismissed the position of the chairman of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, which was mandated to investigate the allegations of breach of privileges that his failure to appear before the committee would be taken as his defence to the allegations.

The embattled lawmaker, on Monday carried out his earlier threat as he failed to appear before the House Ethics and Privileges Committee, which is investigating his allegations of budget padding.

Jibrin had vowed not to honour the committee’s invitation if the House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, failed to step down to allow for a credible probe.

He insisted that the House had lost the moral ground to discharge its legislative functions as it has failed to address the allegations decisively.

The chairman of the committee, Nicholas Ossai, however, said that Jibrin’s absence is a defense in itself and the committee would complete its work with the evidence it has gathered so far.

 

Jibrin Fails To Appear At House Committee Probe

Budget Padding, Abdulmumin JibrinThe former chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has failed to appear before the House Ethics and Privileges Committee, which is investigating his allegations of budget padding.

This is in line with earlier threats from the embattled lawmaker.

In an interview with Channels Television, Jibrin had vowed not to honour the committee’s invitation if the House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, failed to step down to allow for a credible probe.

The chairman of the committee, Nicholas Ossai, however, said that Jibrin’s absence is a defense in itself and the committee would complete its work with the evidence it has gathered so far.

Moral Grounds

The lawmaker said that the House has lost the moral ground to discharge its legislative functions as it has failed to address the allegations decisively.

“I have given sufficient reason, I am not going before any ethics committee. I have explained to you, the chairman of the ethics committee himself has made a lot of public statements…that there is nothing like padding and padding is not an offence.

“And he is the person who is going to pass a judgment on me,” he said.

The lawmaker displayed documents which he says backs up the allegations he has made against the Speaker and some members of the House.

He also asked the Senate to pass a resolution empowering it to take over the functions of the House until the allegations are addressed.

 

Dogara Proposes Time Frame For Budgetary Process

budgetary process, Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, Petroleum SectorThe Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, has proposed a review of the Appropriation Act to set a time frame for the nation’s budgetary process.

The Speaker made the call at a gathering where other lawmakers suggested the inputs of the public before passing the nation’s budget.

The 2016 budget is one issue that has continue to generate public debate in the country.

Issues ranging from budgetary processes to passage and implementation continue to attract public interests.

According to the Speaker, there is an urgent need to reform the budgetary process.

Such reforms, according to him, will not only reduce the delay for the passage of the national budget but it will enable lawmakers work on the budget thoroughly before it is passed.

The Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwa, who was once Speaker of the House of Reps, was also present at the event, and he emphasized the need for planning.

He proposed a time frame for the President to submit the budget to the National Assembly.

On his part, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, advocated a public debate of appropriation bills before they are passed by the National Assembly.

Nigeria currently runs a budgetary system that allows the government to carry over the implementation of a previous budget six months into a new fiscal year.

Jibrin Says He Will Not Appear Before House Ethics Committee

Abdulmumuni Jibrin, Budget Padding, House of RepsFormer Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, has called on the Senate to pass a resolution which will empower it to discharge the functions of the National Assembly until the House of Representatives transparently addresses the allegations of budget padding levelled against the leadership and some members of the House.

Speaking in Abuja, the lawmaker said that the House has lost the moral ground to discharge its legislative functions as it has failed to address the allegations decisively.

Representative Jibrin also made it clear that he will not appear before the House ethics committee which is investigating him for breaching the privileges of the House.

“I have given sufficient reason, I am not going before any ethics committee. I have explained to you, the chairman of the ethics committee himself has made a lot of public statements…that there is nothing like padding and padding is not an offence.

“And he is the person who is going to pass a judgment on me,” he said.

The lawmaker displayed documents which he says backs up the allegations he has made against the Speaker and some members of the House.

He also called on the Senate to take a stand and insist that the allegations are addressed by the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Nicholas Ossai, has said that it will be in the interest of Jibrin to appear before the ethics committee.

Rep. Ossai said this when reacting to comments that Rep Jibrin may not appear before the committee, but noted that the committee was yet to receive any communication from the former chairman that he would not be appearing before the committee.

Rep. Ossai also made it clear that he was not biased and the committee would work impartially.

The House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges, on Friday commenced investigation into the alleged breach of privileges of the House by former Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Representative Abdulmumin Jibrin.

The investigation followed a resolution by the House to probe the allegations of padding of the 2016 budget by some of its members.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Rep Emmanuel Orker-Jev, who sponsored the motion, presented evidence of the reported statements where Rep Abdulmunin Jibrin had accused the House of corruption.

He explained that the allegations made had impinged on the image of the National Assembly and that he took the initiative to move the motion when other colleagues approached him regarding the same matter.

Abdulmumin Jibrin had given a condition that must be met for him to appear before the Ethics Committee to defend allegations of budget padding he made against principal officers of the House.

After the House referred him to the committee for investigation on Wednesday, following deliberations on a motion on the issue, the lawmaker in a statement said he would only obey the decision of the House “if the hearing will be public”.