Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Budget Padding Justifies My Criticism of National Assembly, Says Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday said the ongoing revelation by a former Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, on budget padding in the National Assembly, had proved him right.
The former President spoke with State House correspondents shortly after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Obasanjo, who had earlier described the lawmakers as “armed robbers and rogues,” said the best way out of the current mess was to ensure that only men of integrity were elected into the National Assembly.

Decked in a blue agbada and cap to match, the former President arrived at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, for the meeting at about 12.54pm.
He was driven to the forecourt of the President’s office in a black Sports Utility Vehicle marked ABJ 425 PY, accompanied by one of his daughters.

Jibrin, who was removed as the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation last week, had accused the Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, and three other principal officers of being accomplices in the alleged padding of the 2016 budget by the House.
He had alleged that chairmen of 10 committees injected 2,000 fictitious projects worth N248bn into the budget, while the lawmaker himself had been accused of allocating 20 projects worth N4.3bn to his constituency, while projects worth N40bn were allocated to the appropriation committee under Jibrin’s leadership.
The former President said he was sure that those who did not believe him when he made his earlier statements would now do so with the fresh revelations from the House.
“Well, if there are people who didn’t believe what I said in the past, then you now say that what has come out confirms what I said in the past. Then, I can say that what I said in the past is what I will say now,” Obasanjo added.
When asked if he would want an investigation into the revelations, the former President said the way out was to elect only men of integrity while the President himself should be vigilant in dealing with the lawmakers.
“It is not a question of investigation. We should get men and women of integrity into the place and the President should be very vigilant; whatever should not pass should not pass,” he said.
Obasanjo had, in 2012, described the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly as institutions filled with “rogues and armed robbers” at an event in Lagos attended by a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, and the Head of the defunct Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan.
He had said, “Today, rogues, armed robbers are in the state Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. What sort of laws will they make?”
On the judiciary, the former President said, “The judiciary is also corrupt. During my tenure, many of the corrupt judges were removed, some are still there.
“If the judiciary becomes corrupt, where is the hope for Nigeria?”
Also in November 2014, Obasanjo described the National Assembly as largely an assemblage of looters and thieves.
The former President said the National Assembly, which he alleged shrouded its corruption in the opaque nature of its budget, had damaged its capacity to perform an effective oversight of the executive.
“Apart from shrouding the remunerations of the National Assembly in opaqueness and without transparency, they indulge in extorting money from departments, contractors and ministries in two ways.
“They do so during visits to their projects and programmes and in the process of budget approval, when they build up budgets for ministries and departments, who agree to give it back to them in contracts that they do not execute. They do similar things during their inquiries,” he had alleged.
One Monday, Obasanjo stated that he decided to visit Buhari this time because he had some messages for him.
He added that he travelled to Liberia and The Gambia not too long ago and there were messages for the President from the two countries.
The ex-President added that he returned to the country on Sunday from Seychelles Island, where he attended this year’s Annual General Meeting of African Export Development Bank. He noted the Buhari needed to be updated on certain developments at the forum.
When asked if he was enjoying the travels, Obasanjo said, “Travelling is a good education. What you will learn about a country by visiting that country for two or three days, you won’t learn by reading books.”
Principal officers can attract projects to their constituencies –Rep
A senior member of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Linda Ikpeazu, said on Monday that the allegations of “budget padding” by the committee’s former Chairman, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, was incoherent.
He told The PUNCH in Abuja that Jibrin would have had a strong case if the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara; his Deputy, Mr. Yusuff Lasun; House Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, had stolen the N40bn Jibrin claimed they asked him to include in the 2016 budget.
All the 10 principal officers of the House got concessions in the budget, but Jibrin listed Dogara, Lasun, Ado-Doguwa and Ogor in his allegations.
Ikpeazu, who first came to the House in 1999, explained that what the principal officers did was “simply to attract” projects to their constituencies, not that they stole money.
She added that each of the 360 lawmakers was expected to attract projects to their constituencies.
However, she noted that in the order of ranking, presiding officers and other principal officers would naturally get higher allocations.
She observed that Jibrin, who made the allegations, also used his position to attract projects worth N4.5bn to his own Bebeji Federal Constituency in Kano State.
Ikpeazu added, “I hate that word, padding. What did anybody pad? It makes some sense if you say they stole money. No money was stolen; you are saying that they attracted projects to their constituencies. Their people will even celebrate them for doing so as their representatives.
“The Jibrin, who is talking, put so many projects in his own constituency too. No member of the Appropriation Committee has begrudged him for doing so.”
No budget padding in N’Assembly, says Ndume
The Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, has said there is nothing called budget padding when the National Assembly is working on any appropriation bill.
He also described the ongoing budget padding scandal in the House of Representatives as unfortunate.
Ndume said this when he addressed journalists at the Senate on Monday.
The Borno South senator faulted a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, for exposing the leadership of the lower chamber to the media over alleged padding of the 2016 budge.
He said Jibrin should have filed a petition to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
Ndume said, “What is happening in the House of Representatives is just very unfortunate because we have processes and procedures for doing things in the National Assembly.
“If somebody has an issue, he knows what to do; it is not the press that is supposed to be where somebody would carry his grievances to. But I think they are going to work on it. I, personally, because I am part of them, have being trying to reach out to both sides and we are working on that.
“There is nothing like budget padding. If it is the National Assembly that works on the budget, then you don’t call it padding, because padding is like illegality. But when you tinkered and subtracted, it means that you are working on the budget; these are two different things.
 “If Jibrin is aggrieved, he can write a petition and that should be referred to the Ethics and Privileges (committee) who can do an investigation.”
Ndume also dismissed the alleged plans by the PDP caucus of the Senate to impeach Buhari.
He stated that it would take a collective move by the Senate and the House of Representatives to unseat the president.
He said, “The impeachment process is a National Assembly matter, not Senate. Senate cannot impeach the President; it is the National Assembly that can impeach the President. And for the National Assembly to be able to do so, it will require two-thirds (of the Assembly).”


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