Two hundred and six members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives have again urged Speaker Yakubu Dogara to step down in order to ensure a proper investigation into the budget padding controversy that has enveloped the legislative body. Mr. Dogara and former chairman of the House appropriations committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, have for two weeks engaged in verbal exchanges, blaming each other for the padding of the 2016 budget.
In a statement released today, the lawmakers, who described themselves as members of the Transparency Group, expressed deep shock that Speaker Dogara has been trying to exonerate himself from responsibility for the scandalous padding of the 2016 budget. The statement disclosed that the group was appalled that Mr. Dogara had “the temerity to come out publicly in defense of an action that is [a] clear negation of federal character principles and breach of trust,” adding that the speaker’s action was “both disappointing and dishonorable.”
Bashir Baballe, from Kano State, Agunsoye Oluwarotimi Ojo, a member of the House from Lagos State, and Abubakar Chika Adamu, from Niger State, signed the statement on behalf of the Transparency Group. With 206 House members, the Transparency Group now constitutes a huge opposition to the Speaker of a legislative body that has 360 members.
“The Speaker’s comments also endanger the spirit of the oneness of Nigeria,” said the group’s statement, adding that they wished to “stress the criminal aspect of the Speaker’s action, which is against the letters and spirit of the constitution he swore to protect.
The general public should note that Speaker Yakubu Dogara made criminal insertions (otherwise known as ‘budget padding’) to the tune of over N3 billion to his constituency alone.”
According to the group, “While the entire Zonal Intervention for the three (3) Senatorial Districts of Bauchi State and 12 Federal Constituencies in the state amounts to N1, 666,666,666, the Speaker criminally inserted about 200 percent of the amount, totaling N3, 079,000,000, to his constituency alone!”
The group also accused Mr. Dogara of allocating N4.8 billion out of N9.3 billion in capital projects for Bauchi to his constituency, noting that the sum represented 50 percent of the capital budget for the state. The Transparency Group wrote: “If the above breach of trust and infringement of the Nigerian law are not criminal acts, the ‘insertions’ of bogus projects aimed at siphoning public funds, like vague ‘Youth Empowerment’ to the tune of N450 million, and ‘Strategic Youth Empowerment,’ to the tune of N500 million, should be.”
The lawmakers challenged Mr. Dogara to “explain to the general public the difference between ‘Youth Empowerment’ and ‘Strategic Youth Empowerment’ if it is not a fraud. Every discerning mind knows that this is a riddle to hoodwink the general public against scrutinizing what is clearly a fraud.”
The group insisted that any attempt to ignore the speaker’s alleged criminal activities would amount to “legalizing corruption.” They urged fellow members of the House “to toe the path of honor, integrity and yearnings of our constituents to avoid signing [a] ‘Vote of Confidence’ on the leadership of the House.”
The group demanded that Speaker Dogara come clean concerning the allegations, adding that the group would soon “start exposing the sleaze and corruption surrounding the internal budget of the House.”