The scandalous 2016 budget padding rattling Nigeria's lower legislative chamber is assuming a messy dimension as the embattled axed appropriation chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin refused to cease talking, opening more can of worms that are shocking Nigerians to the marrow.
Though, Jibrin had dubbed those he is fighting “the quartet,” leaving out a very important personality in the House, Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, but he unwittingly or maybe even coyly dragged Gbajabiamila into the scandal as according to certain documents which were released by him, the Majority Leader too was listed among principal officers who were given more projects, Daily Sun reported.
In the handwritten document sighted according to Daily Sun, the House Leader is first on the list that includes the Minority Leader, the Majority Whip, Deputy Whip, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip. On the piece of paper, ministries were written beside the title, ‘Leader’ such as the ministries of Education, Environment and Solid Minerals. Then there were the agencies, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Boarder Community Agency. Though no project was listed, a sum total of N321 million was linked to these MDAs. What is quite unsettling for some lawmakers is the House Leader’s choice not to say anything. So far, Gbajabiamila has kept mum, he hasn’t tried to clarify his position or defend the House. Even with this, there are talks that meetings are being held by lawmakers. Suffice to say that if lawmakers are to approach Gbajabiamila for anything, Jibrin might not just be part of such moves as he left the Loyalist Group which backed the House Leader to support Dogara to emerge Speaker. Ironically, many believe that it was the failure to extract a promise from Gbajabiamila that he would be appointed Appropriations Committee chairman that led to Jibrin ditching the House Leader for the Speaker.
Meanwhile, the decision of the Federal Government to launch a full-scale investigation into allegations of budget padding by some members of the House of Representatives is already creating tension in some Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs. This has also led to panic among various heads of MDAs who might have connived with the lawmakers to pad their budget estimates.
One of the chief executives who gave Saturday Sun an insight into what might be going on in the minds of his colleagues said “everyone is tensed and scared already because I doubt if there is any ministry or agency where there is no adjustment by NASS in their budget estimates.” The source further said that “given that the culture of budget padding in Nigeria is as old as the current democratic dispensation, there has been a deep working relationship among the beaurocrats in the executive and legislative arms of government on the one hand and between the beaurocrats and the lawmakers on the other hand. So, it is something that is deep and entrenched, and I doubt if any ministry or agency can escape a thorough and unbiased probe because if the head of an agency is not involved, his directors and other officials can work with their colleagues in NASS or the lawmakers themselves to insert figures.”
A minister who also spoke with Saturday Sun on the development on the condition that he would not be quoted confirmed that indeed, one of the chief executives of the agencies under his ministry may be one of those, preliminary investigations have indicted. “I’m not going to speak on it because we warned them (Heads of Agencies) not to approach or connive with any lawmaker during the budget preparation but they seemed adamant”, the minister added.
A top official of one of the anti-graft agencies, which may be drafted in for further investigation, and prosecution of lawmakers and other officials indicted in the ongoing probe told Saturday Sun that a number of agencies had already been indicted in a covert investigation already carried out. Some of the agencies are said to be those under the Ministries of Information and Culture, Agriculture, Health, Power, Works and Housing, as well as Transportation, among others.
Meanwhile, the probe panel set up by the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF Abubakar Malami, SAN, to probe how N481 billion was added to the budget has already begun work. Confirming that the probe team headed by an Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, Malami said the Federal Government was doing that to stamp out corrupt tendencies in its budget process in order to achieve success, and to ensure that the masterminds were brought to book to serve as a deterrent to would-be corrupt officials in public office.
Malami said that the panel would determine the criminal roles played by those involved in the action and how much money was hidden and the agencies of government involved in the budget scam.
His words: “The Federal Government is interested in fishing out and punishing those heads of parastatals who allowed themselves to be used by influential persons in the executive and legislative arms of government by importing non-existing projects into successive budgets and allegedly making away with large sums of money budgeted for them.
“You will recall that over time, there has been this criminal conspiracy among some levels of government resulting in budget padding by many of the parastatals and the money diverted and shared by some powerful individuals to the detriment of majority of Nigerians, who have been denied vital services. The present administration has taken note of the painful antics of a few powerful elements and we have decided to fish them out and punish them for others to see that corruption is not in the interest of anybody in Nigeria.”
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