The House of Representatives may witness a rowdy session as it resumes today (Tuesday) in connection with the alleged budget padding scandal in the chamber in which the House principal officers have been accused by the sacked House Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
The PUNCH gathered in Abuja, on Monday that members, backing the call for resignation of the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun; the Whip, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, had concluded plans to ensure the matter would be debated by the lawmakers.
However, it was learnt that the leaders of the House and their supporters had argued that the issue could be handled as an internal affair of the House.
The PUNCH also gathered that Jibrin might be suspended during plenary today.
A member, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “We definitely cannot continue like this. No individual member is greater than the House. The way Jibrin is going about his agitation is an embarrassment not only to himself and the House but the All Progressives Congress as the governing party. The House must take a stand.
“What I think is likely to happen is that we may either hold a closed-door session to deal with this matter once and for all or allow our ethics committee to deal with it, but we have to take a decision.”
Jibrin’s allegations will not be ignored—Transparency Group
The Chairman of the Transparency Group, a pressure group within the House, Muhammad Soba, said issues raised by Jibrin would not be swept under the carpet.
Soba, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “We will demand that the accused persons step down for proper investigations to be carried out. It is as simple as that.”
Members of the TG held a secret meeting and resolved to summon Jibrin, The PUNCH learnt on Monday.
One of our correspondents learnt that the meeting, which was held at an undisclosed location in Abuja, on Monday night, had close to 80 members in attendance.
It was gathered that members of the group sent words to Jibrin to appear before them to state his case and explain the level of his involvement in the budget padding saga.
Members of the group also agreed to resist any attempt to pass a vote of confidence in Dogara and those accused of complicity in the saga and reject any attempt to suspend the embattled Jibrin.
A member of the group, who spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity on Monday, stated, “We met with close to 80 of our members in attendance. Our demands are not difficult for the Speaker and his group to meet; they should simply step aside and submit themselves for investigations. If they are found blameless, they can come back.
“We hear there is a plot to suspend somebody. It is our considered opinion that it will be hasty without giving all concerned a fair hearing.”
Budget padding allegation, not our priority –Whip
But the Whip of the House, Ado-Doguwa, in an SMS to The PUNCH, explained that the alleged budget padding scam was the least of the challenges facing the House.
Ado-Doguwa stated, “The unfortunate budget padding matter, in my opinion, is not going to be a priority issue at all.
“Even though the House may wish to address its shortcomings through our internal legislative code, I am confident we will have no time to waste on the budget padding issue because we all believe the matter is mischievous and unfounded and therefore lacks merit to attract our special attention.
“We, as leaders, will not allow ourselves be distracted by politically-motivated trivialities.”
In response to what is going to top the agenda of the House on resumption, Doguwa said, “Robust oversight of ministries and agencies of government vis-a-vis the implementation of the 2016 budget through our committee systems will be our key priority.
“Other priorities will be to continue on the lawmaking process from where we stopped. We have over 116 bills at various levels of legislative considerations; we will continue on such bills.
“The President’s possible request for emergency powers will also be on the priority as a House of the people. We will also give attention to any request that is intended at improving the lot of our people.”
I don’t care if House suspends me –Jibrin
Jibrin has said he will not be bothered if his colleagues in the House suspend him when the House resumes on Tuesday (today).
He stated this on a live television programme titled, ‘Politics Today’ on Channels Television on Monday.
He added, “On the issue of suspension, I am less bothered. Perhaps that is the sacrifice I will have to make for the country and for us to be able to deal with the issues of corruption in the House, but I doubt very much that the 360 members, having followed the events of the last two months, and of course the letter I wrote to each member last week, will go on the floor of the House and start talking about suspending me.”
The lawmaker said even if he was suspended, he would continue to fight corruption and ensure that Dogara, and the three other principal officers in the House were brought to justice.
Jibrin added, “Whatever happens on Tuesday and the rest of the days we want to spend in the House before the end of the year, one thing is certain and I say this without any element of contradiction, I will continue to pursue this issue until justice is served on Speaker Dogara and other principal officers whether I am suspended or not.”
Senate focuses on economy, may summon finance minister, CBN gov
On resumption on Tuesday (today), Senate President Bukola Saraki is to address his colleagues after which they may or may not debate his speech, which is expected to set the tone for Senate deliberations in the weeks ahead.
A statement by the Senate President’s Media Office on Monday said Saraki would dedicate his welcome address to the state of the economy.
The statement partly read, “The Senate President’s address will coincide with the return of the 8th Senate from its annual recess.
“His Excellency’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.”
It further quoted Saraki as saying, “During our annual recess, I and many of my colleagues in the Senate returned to our constituencies to witness the impact of the economic downturn on local communities.
“The conditions on the ground demand that we put forth our best efforts to get the economy moving and people back to work.”