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Budget padding, a moral question on Buhari’s anti-graft war


Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara PHOTO: TWITTER/DOGARA

Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara PHOTO: TWITTER/DOGARA

No doubt Nigerians are waiting to see how the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will resolve the crisis of ‘budget padding’ currently affecting the leadership of the House of Representatives, where it controls the majority.

First, Nigerians are anxious to see how President Muhammadu Buhari will address the issue in relation to his ongoing anti corruption war, which many critics have faulted to be one sided.A former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumini Jibrin, who represents Kiru/Bbeji Federal Constituency, Kano State on the platform of the APC, had accused some principal officers of the House of corruption and underhand practices in the 2016 budget. He implicated the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor.

While it has been suggested in some quarters that Dogara, a member of the ruling APC should step down pending when the allegation would be fully investigated and concluded, the party and the Presidency appear to have been dillydallying over the matter.Speaking on the development, a Prof. of Political Science and member of the House on the platform of APC, Mojeed Alabi faulted the decision of Jibrin to drag the Chambers to the anti graft agencies over alleged “padding” and other sundry misdemeanor concerning the 2016 budget.

He said the action of the sacked appropriation chairman smacked of disrespect for the constitutional latitude of the legislative arm to deal with issues that were strictly within the purview of the hallowed chamber.Prof Alabi, who is deputy chairman, Committee on Human Rights, insisted that the Jibrin “cannot absolve himself of blame in the matter because whatever it is, he presided over all the maneuvering in the first instance, which is a major defect in the appropriation process in the National Assembly.”

According to him, “My position is that when people are put in positions of trust, they should be open and transparent enough to make sure that each and every constituency gets whatever it is due.“However, where it is found that some individual who are put in position of trust have abused such trusts, it must be reprehensible. And in this particular instance you cannot remove Jibrin himself from blame because whatever it is, he presided over all these maneuverings in the first instance.”

He said the story that people put in the budget what was not supposed to be there or gained what was beyond what they were ordinarily entitled to “is a manifestation of a major defect in the appropriation process in the National Assembly itself.”

Describing the entire scenario as mere sensationalism, which people are trying to play to the gallery, Alabi said, “The issue could have been left for the appropriate committees of the House to handle. If we are talking of padding in terms of increasing budgetary allocation I cannot see how such a thing should be a matter for the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). It is a matter for the House itself to resolve. Because what we call padding in terms of disproportionate allocation to a particular members’ constituency over and above what that constituency is entitled to will not be a thing that any court of law will convict anyone for.

“That does not mean it is not morally reprehensible. If it is morally reprehensible then it is the House itself that can put itself in order by evolving appropriate sanctions for whoever is found guilty. It is not a matter for the EFCC.

“It is not a matter for the DSS, it is a matter which the House through its appropriate committee or the committee of the whole House itself can examine. And after examining it, will take a decision as to what measure of punishment, what measure of reform that it will need to take to be able to make sure that such kind of thing is stopped and not allowed to continue in our legislative process.”

On the argument that the issues raised by the sacked appropriation chairman ought to be taken seriously, Alabi who represents Ede North/Ede South/ Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal constituency, Osun State said, “Ordinarily in a sane society by now Jibrin ought to be under serious investigation by the anti graft agencies.”

Whatever the position Alabi held over the issue, what is of utmost concern to Nigerians, who were interested in how his party tackles the issue of corruption as it affects its members is what they are waiting see.

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