Realizing he has already begun to lose his popularity among Nigerians, the embattled Speaker of the House of the Representative, Yakubu Dogara has suddenly made a u-turn, describing budget adding as an offense contrary to his earlier stance, but quick to say he was quoted out of context.
The Speaker, who yesterday denied reports suggesting that he could not be investigated or prosecuted over the scandal, The Nation Newspaper also confirms
Dogara also said reports credited to him as saying padding was no offence under the law were untrue.
He said his comments on the alleged budget padding were misrepresented and Nigerians now see him as insensitive to their feelings.
Dogara spoke yesterday through his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan.
Hassan in a statement in Abuja said that his principal’s correct position on the issue is that padding is a strange phenomenon to the budget and nothing untoward was done by the House and indeed the National Assembly with respect to the 2016 budget.
For the umpteenth time, he dismissed all the allegations of budget padding levied at him by the former Appropriation committee Chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin as fictional.
Alleging gross misrepresentation of Dogara’s comments by the press, Hassan said:”The first was at the State House after his meeting with Mr. President where he informed the press that ‘padding’ was unknown to the lexicon of the legislature and Nigerian law.
“By this, the Speaker clearly asserted that nothing undertaken by the legislature in the ordinary course of the budget process could be alluded to either as padding or an infraction of any law.
“Unfortunately the media reported him as saying that ‘padding’ was not a crime. This tended to insinuate that the Speaker admitted there was budget padding but that this did not constitute a crime.
“There could be nothing farther from the truth. The Speaker’s assertion was and remains that nothing untoward had been done by the House and indeed the National Assembly with respect to the 2016 budget.
“In the second instance, while responding to questions at the Civil Society Dialogue at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja on Thursday 12th August, Hon Dogara made reference to Sections 3, 24 and 30 of the Legislative Houses ( Powers and Privileges ) Act to buttress the point that the legislature while carrying out its constitutional responsibilities is protected by law.
“He did not say or mean that he is above the laws of the land or that he is shielded by the law or has immunity for any infractions of the law.
“This clear restatement of the law has been twisted by sections of the media to mean that neither security agencies nor the courts could investigate or prosecute or try him!
“This is most uncharitable and a deliberate and calculated attempt to pitch the Speaker against the Nigerian public and paint him as lawless.
“As an Officer in the Temple of Justice, Dogara not only owes unalloyed allegiance to the Judiciary but also to the institutions of law enforcement. He indeed swore to an Oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Dogara should not be portrayed as insensitive or arrogant as this is contrary to his true nature of humility and humaneness that has endeared him to his colleagues and Nigerians.
“Indeed, Dogara had initially adopted silence as his response, but having observed the grievous damage Jibrin’s extensive misrepresentations and lies was inflicting on the country and distracting our common and urgent resolve to tackle our distressed economy and security challenges, he opted to offer some explanations on the issues as continuous silence may have amounted to insensitivity, admission or arrogance.
“Mr. Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, wishes to reiterate and assure all Nigerians that no kobo belonging to Nigerians has been misappropriated, stolen or lost in this budget saga.
“There was no act of corruption by him during and after the preparation of the 2016 budget. Mr. Speaker urges all Nigerians to be vigilant with respect to execution of 2016 budget to ensure that Nigerians are not shortchanged.
“Mr. Speaker Yakubu Dogara further wishes to deny all other allegations of a personal nature heaped on him by Jibrin as they are fictional and scandalous untruths and falsehoods which will be dealt with at the appropriate fora and time.
“We wish to appeal to the public for patience as the truth which will vindicate the innocent in this unfortunate saga will unfold sooner than later”.
Dogara, emerging from a meeting with President Buhari in Abuja penultimate Friday, had told reporters in answer to a question on Jibrin’s allegation had said: “What is padding? You haven’t told me. Ask Jibrin what is padding. I studied law and I have been in the legislature and all this period I have never heard of the word padding being an offence under any law. If I don’t know, you are the media, research the law and let me know.”
A cross section of Nigerians did not take kindly to the comments and condemned him in strong terms.
A few days later, Dogara said at a forum in Abuja that the legislative business of the House, “cannot be grounded for any investigation or any procedure or proceeding to be commenced in court against a member of parliament, either the Speaker or even the Senate President, once they are done in exercise of their proper function.
“The law is there. Both communications, whatever it is, they are privileged. That is in order to give independence to the legislature. If the legislature is not independent we can’t do anything.
“If whatever you say on the floor or before a committee or whatever you communicate is subject of litigation then all the members will be in court and at the end of the day when debate come you cannot even air your views.”