THE allegation of budget padding levelled against some principal officers of the House of Representatives took a new dimension at the weekend as the office of the House Committee on Appropriation was reportedly sealed off by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
This is coming just as the former chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, Honourable Abdulmumini Jibrin, claimed responsibility for sealing off of the office.
But the new chairman of the committee on appropriation, Honourable Mustapha Dawaki, in Abuja, during a media briefing, claimed that the secretariat was safe and open, noting that all the documents in the office, including computers, were intact.
However, efforts by the Clerk of the Committee, Dr. Abel Ochobi, to show newsmen that the office was not shut were futile, as he was unable to gain access to his office.
He explained that the security beef up around the secretariat was on the orders of the acting Clerk of the National Assembly, Sani Omolori.
Dawaki said, “When I called the Clerk of the committee to draw his attention to this publication, he told me that his attention had also been drawn to the issue and that he had already taken a proactive measure by writing the Clerk of the National Assembly and had copied my office.”
Commenting on report that principal officers named in the alleged budget padding had been invited, he said,”I am not aware of any invitation from the police and I cannot answer any question that is not in relation to what I have delivered here now.
“I am not aware that the sergeant-at-arms were given instructions to seal off the secretariat.
“What I heard from the secretariat was that nobody denied them access to the secretariat. They were in the secretariat this morning and nobody harassed them”, he stated.
A letter was written by the committee’s clerk to Ochobi on the subject matter and was entitled, “Alleged shutdown, seizure, packing/relocating of committee system and records/documents and harassment of staff.”
The letter read in part: “Our attention has been drawn to a newspaper report, alleging shutdown, seizure and packing/relocation of the committee system and records/documents of the committee on appropriations, including harassment of committee staff.
“I write to confirm that the committee’s secretariat is intact and has not been threatened in anyway. All records are also intact and safe-both hardware and software.
“In addition, our archival set up is properly kept and in order.
“Furthermore, no staff in the secretariat of the committee has been subjected to any form of threat, intimidation or harassment from any quarter whatsoever.
“Any such reports along the lines of the above allegation should therefore be totally disregarded,” the letter concluded.
Meanwhile, Jibrin has expressed confidence that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) will soon arrest the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara and 11 others for prosecution.
Jibrin had, on Friday, in addition to visiting the headquarters of the DSS, submitted copies of his petition at the offices of the two anti-corruption agencies, to substantiate his accusation of padding of the 2016 budget by the leadership of the House.
The 39-year-old Kano State lawmaker, who disclosed this in a series of Tweets, on Saturday, promised to share the contents of the petition and also make “more shocking revelations” soon.
“I am confident that the EFCC and ICPC will effect the arrest of Speaker Dogara and the 11 others to commence prosecution in earnest.
“Speaker Dogara has resorted to blame the so-called external forces. Are those forces responsible for moving Federal Government projects to his farm?
“On the request of my lawyers, the security agencies have promptly provided protection for the appropriation secretariat, my office and house.
“I also responded to another show of shame by nine out of the 40-member appropriation committee that addressed the press yesterday [Friday].
“This has opened a rare opportunity for the anti-corruption agencies to decisively use this as a case study to send powerful signal.
“This is a defining moment in the struggle to cleanse the House,first time a member will drag 12 of his colleagues to the anti-graft agencies,” he said.
“Our petition to the EFCC and ICPC against Speaker Dogara, Lasun, Doguwa, Ogor and eight other members have been dispatched yesterday (Friday).
“The case against them ranges from corrupt enrichment, abuse of office to public trust, living above means, massive movement of funds in budget
“The members are Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun, Whip Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leader Leo Ogor
“Others include, chairman FCT, Honourable Herma Hembe, Chairman higher education, Hon Zakari Mohammed, chairman health, Honourable Chike Okafor, Chairman power, Honourable Dan Asuquo, Chairman marine transport, Honourable mohammed Bago, Chairman Police, Honourable Haliru Jika, Chairman interior, Honourable Jagaba Adams Jagaba and Chairman House Services, Hon Babanle Ila.