Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has shunned the invitation of the police Special Investigating Panel over allegations of budget padding.
It was reportedly gathered on Wednesday August 10th, that the Speaker did not honour the police invitation because the letter was not signed by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris. The panel had in a letter to Dogara requested him and others mentioned in the petition to appear before it last Friday.
The Speaker, however, did not honour the invitation. Rather, he met with President Muhamadu Buhari over the budget crisis on Friday. While Dogara’s accuser and a former House Appropriation Chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin, appeared before the panel last week Friday and on Tuesday, Dogara and other principal officers shunned it.
Jibrin had reportedly accused the Speaker of padding the 2016 budget in collusion with some officers of the House. He had submitted a petition against the accused to the police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, urging the agencies to probe them.
The lawmaker had also visited the police last Wednesday with documents to back up his claims.
A committee chairman close to Dogara who spoke on condition of anonymity reportedly said that although an invitation was sent to the Speaker last week by the police, the document was “considered to be informal because it was signed by a low-ranking officer.”
“The Speaker is the number four citizen of this country. If you are sending a letter to him, there should be a signature of the Inspector-General of Police on it.”
But a source close to the public panel told one of our correspondents that Dogara’s reason was not tenable, adding that any member of the panel could sign the invitation. When contacted, Dogara’s Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, said he would make enquiries.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Donald Awunah, said he could not comment because he did not know anything about the investigation. “I don’t know about the investigation, so I can’t comment,” He said on the telephone.
Punch however reported that some members of the House of Representatives took a position on the budget padding allegations by Jibrin on Wednesday, declaring that neither the police nor the EFCC had the power to investigate legislative proceedings.
Findings showed on Wednesday that the majority of the 96 committee chairmen and their 96 deputies considered the 2016 Appropriation Act as a law already in operation.
It was reportedly learnt that members of the Transparency Group were under pressure to back down on their confrontation with the leadership of the House.
An official of the House said,
“The 1999 Constitution (as amended), particularly in sections 80 and 81, spell out the processes for the appropriation of government funds. The 2016 money bill did not only comply with the provisions of the constitution, but also followed all other legislative processes of passing bills by the National Assembly.
The question that has remained unanswered is what the police and the anti-graft agencies want to investigate.”
Investigations showed that the chairmen and their deputies had discussed the issue and resolved that the budget conformed to the provisions of the law.
One of the chairmen, who heads the House Committee on Army, Mr. Rima Shawulu, reportedly said that lawmakers considered the involvement of the police and the EFCC in “purely parliamentary processes” as a waste of resources and man-hours.
“The police and the EFCC cannot investigate the internal proceedings of the House. Neither the House rules nor the Constitution of this country gives them the power to do so.
“What are they coming to investigate? That Jibrin said budget was padded? If he said budget was padded, he must bring the original. Where is the original?
“Let him publish the original. What will the police do in this case? That the House did not follow its process before the President signed the budget into law?
“If they are saying the zonal intervention projects are not being executed as passed in the budget, that is criminal, but that is not the case here. There is no place in the legislative process for the police or the EFCC.”