Another legislator reveals more shady deals at the House of Reps

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– Hon Lawal Gumau, who is a member of the Transparency Group of the House of Representatives, want Senator ALi Ndume to say the truth about budget padding

– He confirmed that both Abdulmumin Jibrin and Speaker Yakubu Dogara are guilty of padding the budget and stated how

– He also reveals why there had been an ‘uneasy’ silence among members of the House while padding went on over the years

To say Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Representatives is in the eye of the storm over allegations of budget padding is stressing the obvious. Abdulmumin Jibrin, the immediate past chairman of the appropriation committee is resolute to have him prosecuted. However, in this live interview conducted by Channels Television but monitored by Eromosele Ebhomele, Hon Lawal Gumau representing Toro constituency in Bauchi state and member of the Transparency Group of the House, reveals how the padding takes place and why his colleagues have been silent over it

Lawal Gumau

Lawal Gumau representing Toro constituency at the House of Representatives

Senate leader, Ali Ndume, recently said padding of the budget is being misunderstood and that there is really nothing like padding…

I want to assure you Ndume knows about it (budget padding) since when he was in the House of Representatives. Let him say the truth. He has been at the National Assembly many times and he knows there was padding. Two, he said if National Assembly tinkers, adds or subtract from what is in the budget, it is not padding, yes I agree with him. But what of if 10 or 20 people went somewhere, a hotel or a house and tinkers with the budget? Is that not padding? Are we so illiterate we don’t know the meaning of padding? Is Ndume telling me he doesn’t know the meaning of padding? We are not talking about the National Assembly. Jibrin Abdulmumin is not complaining of the National Assembly budget, he is saying some people used their position to pad the 2016 budget. So please let us not be talking as if we don’t know what we are saying. Ndume knows that there was padding, there is padding and there is still going to be padding if they are allowed to continue. There is still going to be padding in 2017 if they are allowed to continue.

READ ALSO: Jibrin prepares budget-related questions for Dogara to answer

So what you are saying is that this had been going on for a while, not today…

I came to the National Assembly in 2011 and I was fighting padding since 2012 and every year, there was padding. In the House of Representatives where I am, I believe there was padding, nobody can tell me there was no padding. Let us start investigation…anybody who investigates will know there was padding.

What exactly is this padding?

Padding is to insert something into a document with the intention of comforting yourself or distorting information. That is the dictionary definition of padding. Before we came out to talk (recently), we had to look at different dictionaries to know the definition so as to be fair to these people.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Abdulmumin Jibrin

Speaker Yakubu Dogara and Abdulmumin Jibrin

In their defence, they said the leadership of the House usually have a higher chunk of the money allocated to constituency projects and that this had been the tradition for a while. What do you think?

I want to agree with you. Naturally, a leader must get something more than the follower will get. But what we are saying is that padding comes after that. For example, government intervention was shared among six geo-political zones. In these six geo-political zones, every state has its own share. But where the problem comes is that there were some information that were hidden by the leadership which they did not divulge to the members. And these information were used by them alone. Naturally, a leader must get something more than the others. Can you imagine a leader getting N4 billion and a follower getting N40 million? I have a friend, a member from Anambra state, up till today, nothing was put in his constituency budget by the speaker because they have difference between themselves. Even on Wednesday, he came to my office complaining that up till now, no kobo had been added to his constituency. I advised him to go to the speaker, he said he went to the speaker more than 10 times and before Jibrin was removed, he went to him more than five times.

READ ALSO: Plot to impeach Speaker Yakubu Dogara thickens

Does it mean that the House does not get to see the final copy of the budget before it is sent and that the entire House does not see copies of the final budget which people say they have approved?

After the budget from the committees, the budget would go to appropriation committee. This appropriation committee would work on the budget. After working on the budget, they would return it to the members for everybody to see and read and agree. Padding does not come in up to that point. Immediately after the House had passed the budget and just before it is sent to the executive, that is where padding comes in. The president would not know that this project was not among the ones the members of the House approved. So the president would give his assent. The members too did not know that after passing the budget, something was inserted. What we are saying now is that we, the ordinary members, only know that a new thing has been inserted different from what we approved when they bring back the approved budget.

When you talk about insertion, are you talking about a new line item or figures just increased?

New line item. Let me give you a clear example, this Kano Film Village that was a public debate of recent, was not approved in the budget. After passing the budget and before taking it to the president for assent, it was inserted. This is a new line of item and money was allocated to it. Go to the constituencies of all the leaders, especially the four that Abdulmumin Jibrin accused, you would be surprised that after passing the budget, with the zonal intervention, they still went ahead to insert projects worth billions of naira to their constituencies leaving the ordinary members who are many in number.

So this is not about the leadership tussle that preceded the inauguration of the eighth House of Representatives?

It has nothing to do with it. The House had agreed with the leaders that there must be no padding. We agreed. Before the Ramadan, there was an executive period where precisely, Honourable Babanle Bashir raised the issue that we don’t want padding this year and we will not agree and we are not going to fight it internally but externally if need be. They promised us that they would not and that they would sit down with members after two weeks to sort out issues (relating to the budget). Up till today, that two weeks has not come. We went to Mecca for lesser hajj, we came back assuming that immediately after we came back, we would be called to an executive session to decide. Up till when we went for recess, there wasn’t an executive session to decide.

But by this time, it is like the allegations had not come up…

The allegations had come up but they were not in the public domain. You know God, the One we serve, has His way of punishing a criminal if we don’t punish him. What happened was that Jibrin part of them. They were hiding this thing. They didn’t want anybody to know. It was only Jibrin as chairman of the appropriation committee that knew everything that had happened. We did not know but were sure that these people would pad the budget.

READ ALSO: Why Buhari’s government is persecuting me – Ekweremadu

Since 2011 when I joined the House of Representatives, there has been no year there had been no padding.

So are you saying the allegations made by Jibrin are true?

But mind you I am not supporting Honourable Jibrin, I am supporting the allegation and I am not saying that they did, because I am not a court or a lawyer. What we are saying is that since Jibrin made the allegation against these people, why can’t there be an investigation because padding is an offence?

Who do you want to take over the investigation?

We don’t want a committee within the House to do the investigation because all the committees are appointees of the speaker.

What about the Senate?

Even in the Senate the committees are appointees of the Senate president. Okay, tell me what the attorney-general of the federation doing. Is he not the law officer? If there is a petition, can’t he order for an investigation? We have the EFCC, we have the ICPC, we have the police, what are they doing that they cannot investigate? We are just saying let the House open the budget issue to investigation.

If you say this had been going on since 2011 when you got to the House, why are you just speaking out?

Listen to Ndume that said we have an internal mechanism for resolving issues. So if you want to anything, they will tell you to follow the internal mechanism as stated in the book of order of the House. When you start, you will not even know that you have been frustrated until after everything has passed. You will complain till next year and they will tell you they will handle it. That is what is happening. What we are saying now is that we are tired of that. This is the government of change as led by Muhammadu Buhari.

This thing had been happening throughout, not just since 2011. I only quoted 2011 because that is the time I came to the House. Immediately we were sworn-in in 2011, the old members that were there from 2007 told us that if we were not careful, there would be padding. We said it was not possible, and we started fighting it since that time.

READ ALSO: Speaker Dogara in fresh allegations

It seems like it is a clique that does this budget padding. So who are these people that pad the budget on its transition to the executive?

When the House is done with it, the budget would go back to the appropriation committee and the leadership. The leadership would take over the issue of going to the president, the issue of bringing back to the House. And immediately they come back, they would just share it among individual members and would never come back to the House to discuss it because it has already been assented to by the president. It is then individual members would realise that some things have been added because a lawmaker would come to check his constituency project and see it as it was approved by the chamber, then he would check the other person’s own and see that it is now 10 times his own and which was not approved in the chamber.

Should we then point fingers at the leadership of the House?

That is it. It is the leadership that should answer now on why this and this and this come up. Let them not deceive anybody that a leader must have more than an ordinary member. We agree and don’t have problem with that.

Some might think it is a ploy to derail the House because somebody did not get the leadership…

I am sorry for Nigerians. We are talking about a criminal offence here and somebody is saying it is because someone did not get the leadership. Please look at it this way, if we catch an armed robber now and he gives an information about another armed robber, are we going to just sit down and say it was because he was caught that he is revealing another armed robber? What we are saying is that we don’t want to assume or continue assuming that the National Assembly is a crime-free zone.

Number two, we don’t want to agree again to anybody coming public accusing us…our constituencies are disturbing us. I respect my constituency and my constituency respects me. I don’t want a situation where Obasanjo would come on air and say everybody in the National Assembly is a thief. I am not a thief and can never be by God’s grace. I don’t even pray to be a leader if this is the type of leadership I can have.

READ ALSO: Dogara’s allies accuse external influence over House crisis

Can you tell us how the failed Kano Film Village get into the project?

Let me explain again. The Kano Film Village project was brought in by Abdulmumin Jibrin after the House of Representatives had passed the budget and before it went to the president for padding. And we have said any person who padded should be investigated. We don’t want the ethics and privileges committee of the House to investigate it because it involves Nigerians. For example, the Senate president can be taken to court for allegedly forging the rules of the Senate because it involves the whole Nigeria because everything is going to be done with that order.

What if the leadership resigns now, would you still be asking for investigation?

We would not leave it. We can only leave it if there would be no padding in 2017 and the padded areas are not executed by the executive. Our group is not representing the House of Representatives, our group is a pressure and interest group. So what we are saying is that if there was no padding in the 2016 budget, there would not have been any issue with out group. Dogara and Jibrin could be fighting and we would be watching because they belong to the same group.

Is what Obasanjo said true?

I want you to know that I respect Obasanjo as an elderstatesman. But there are many questions to his statement. What he said is possibly for those criminals that are in the National Assembly. Not all (of us). The generalisation is what is wrong. I cannot be accused of criminal activity in the National Assembly since I came. And there are many people like me. So for Obasanjo to generalise…didn’t you hear a senator who refused to collect N50 million bribe from Obasanjo? Can you tell me that a criminal would refuse the N50 million bribe? What that senator said is not a lie. Many senators and members of the House refused that bribe during that time.

READ ALSO: Speaker Dogara issues 7-day ultimatum to Jibrin

So what we are saying is that Obasanjo was right by his statement only for those criminals. But for him to generalise, that is the problem.

The post Another legislator reveals more shady deals at the House of Reps appeared first on Nigeria News today & Breaking news | Nigerian newspapers 24/7.

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