The immediate past Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmunin Jibrin, is accusingÂ Speaker Yakubu Dogara and three other principal officers of theÂ House of harassing, monitoringÂ and intimidating him following his allegation that they sought to pad this yearâ€™s budget to the tune of N40 billion.
His lawyers dispatched a petition to the Police and the Department of State Security (DSS) yesterday, protestingÂ â€œsubterranean and clandestine effortsâ€ by Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun,Â House Whip Hon. AlhassanÂ Ado Doguwa and House Minority Leader Hon. Leo Ogor to â€œobstruct justice.â€
Ogor, responding to Jibrinâ€™s claim about involvement in budget padding, dismissed it as cheap blackmail.
Members of the House were divided yesterday on what position to take on the issue.
Some asked the four principal officers to step aside while the matter is investigated while others called for proof from Jibrin, failing which he should be sanctioned.
Jibrin said he stood firmly byÂ his allegations and will prove same at the appropriate time.
Messrs Hammart & Co, Law Bond Solicitors and Doka Chambers, in a petition on behalf of Jibrin to the IGP, said Dogara,Lasun, Doguwa and Ogor â€œ have resorted to blackmail our client into silence and to further harass his person and family using the instrument of the obstructive coercion and perversion of due process by deploying, albeit illegally some elements of the Nigeria Police.
â€œWe now have it on good authority that these quartet acting in concert are at the moment using some elements within the police to monitor, harass, intimidate and hound our client into an unwarranted detention with the purpose of inhibiting his right to move freely and to express himself as contained in Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
â€œThe purpose of their antics is to upturn the narrative and paint our client as the black sheep in the flock, and cleverly presenting themselves as transparent angels.â€
They advisedÂ the police and other security agencies â€œnot to allow themselves (security agencies) to be used to execute the personal objectives of these quartet; more so appropriate legal action has been taken by our client, as a law abiding citizen, to protect his fundamental rights as guaranteed by our laws.â€
They also warned the quartetÂ â€not to descend to the narrow aim of dragging the institution of the House of Representatives into their personal fight and to note that by virtue ofÂ the institution he leads and as a lawyer, he should act within the confines of the Rule of Law and allow the House of Representatives to institute a special investigation into this matter where our client will have the opportunity earlier denied him by the quartet to testify and provide evidence against them because he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.â€
Some Representatives who spoke on the condition that their names would not be mentionedÂ branded Jibrin an angry man who wants to pull the establishment down because he was removed as chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, whileÂ others saidÂ the allegation was too heavy to be left uninvestigated.
â€œThere is a need to investigate the allegation because it is a very serious one. We are talking about fighting corruption in line with the policy of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and the House has always touted this,â€ one Representative said.
â€œThis is the time to show the world that we are serious about it. If Jibrin has proof as he said, he should not hesitate to bring it forward.
â€œIn the interim, I think the Speaker should also allow the issue be investigated. He should step aside and allow the Ethics and Privileges Committee, or an adhoc committee investigate.
â€œIt will do him and the other accused principal officers a lot of good to be proven innocent. It should not be waved aside or swept under the carpet,â€ the member from the South- west said.
Another memberÂ from the South- South likened Jibrinâ€™s allegation to that made byÂ the former Ambassador of the United States, Mr.James Entwistle, about sexual misconduct against three members of the House.
He said: â€Because of the seriousness of the allegation and the manner it affects the reputation of the House and Nigeria as a whole, the Speaker constituted a joint committee to investigate. The same thing is expected here.
â€œThe situation is already bad enough as Nigerians believe lawmakers are corrupt. This would make matters worse. It might come to a time whenÂ our constituents begin to stone us believing the N40 billion was in cash and shared amongst members. This must be sorted out.
â€œBut if the former Chairman of Appropriations CommitteeÂ is found to be lying, or does not have proof, then a commensurate punishment in the House Rules should be brought to bear on him accordingly.â€
The Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, in his response to the allegation, called Jibrinâ€™s allegation cheap blackmail.
He said: â€œThose are fabricated stories and the facts are in the budget.
â€œI think this is coming from somebody who is a little bit upset, who doesnâ€™t know his left from his right. It is unfortunate, but I donâ€™t want to go into altercation with him.
â€œAt the appropriate time, when we resume on the floor, we will speak, but I can assure you that they are all a bunch of lies and there is nothing in it.
â€œYou can read the lines, he has actually lost his committee. Why didnâ€™t he make availableÂ this allegation all along? Those are the questions you need to answer.
â€œHe was the one that addressed the issue of this budget on Channels and he accused the Presidency and the executive in respect of issues that bother on the budget.
â€œToday, he is singing a different tune, and I think he is good at singing different tunes anyway. So like I said I am not going to go into any altercation with somebody I consider not a serious person.
â€œI am not going to waste my time over that issue and what he has said are all lies and this kind of blackmail doesnâ€™t work with the likes of Leo Ogor, so you see he is just wasting his time.â€
Culled from THE NATION