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Niyi Odebode, John Ameh, Eniola Akinkuotu, Adelani Adepegba
and Leke Baiyewu
There are strong indications that the Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, has thrown his weight behind the embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, against his accuser, a former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
It was gathered on Monday that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Mr. Abdulrahman Kawu-Sumaila, was also supporting Dogara.
The moves by the governor and the President’s aide were said to have deepened the budget padding crisis in the House.
It was gathered that Tambuwal had been mobilising some members of the House from the North-West to support the Speaker.
A member of the House, who confided inThe PUNCH, said, “It is an open secret that the Speaker is Tambuwal’s man. The Sokoto State governor was instrumental in the emergence of Dogara as the Speaker in 2015. He has not abandoned the man. He is mobilising members of the House for Dogara.”
It was learnt that although the Sokoto State governor had succeeded in convincing the North-West members of the House to support Dogara, the South-West members had, however, declined to support the Speaker.
Findings showed that members from the South-West had not forgotten the role Tambuwal played in the emergence of Dogara as the Speaker in June 2015, dumping Femi Gbajabiamila, the preferred candidate of the All Progressives Congress.
It was learnt that the budget crisis would have been resolved if the South-West members had signed the list of those who were ready to pass vote of confidence in Dogara.
The PUNCH gathered that most members from the zone, however, decided to be neutral by supporting neither Dogara nor Jubrin.
A chieftain of the party, who confided inThe PUNCH, said, “You will recall that the South-West members of the party were instrumental in the emergence of Tambuwal as the Speaker in 2011. In 2015, when it was the time to show gratitude, he abandoned the zone.”
Investigations also showed that the relationship between Jibrin and Kawu-Sumaila had been frosty since the budget padding crisis started.
It was learnt that Jibrin, who accused Dogara of padding the budget, was not happy with Kawu-Sumaila because he thought that the presidential aide prevented him from meeting President Muhammadu Buhari.
The former appropriation committee chairman had in a statement on Sunday alleged that two governors and three former members of the House were blocking him from meeting the President.
A source said, “Jibrin feels that Kawu-Sumaila has been tactically supporting Dogara.”
Kawu-Sumaila, an All Progressives Congress ex-lawmaker from Kano State like Jibrin, had previously served as the Deputy Minority Leader of the House before becoming the SSA to Buhari.
Jibrin did not name the governors, but sources close to him were said to have named Kawu-Sumaila as one of the three former Reps.
“The point is that you could see Kawu-Sumaila with Dogara in the video as the Speaker addressed State House correspondents soon after he emerged from the meeting with the President,” one of close aides of Jibrin alleged.
Efforts to get the spokesman for Tambuwal, Imam Imam, to comment did not succeed, as his mobile phone rang out. He had yet to respond to a text message sent to his phone as of press time.
The Speaker’s Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, declined comment.
‘Jibrin didn’t request to see Buhari’
The Presidency on Monday deplored what it said were attempts by Jibrin to drag the President into the budget padding allegations.
It said Jibrin, as a lawmaker, should know the “protocol” on how to see Buhari, as against his recent insinuations that he had been blocked from seeing the President.
Kawu-Sumaila reacted amid insinuations that he was one of the “three former” members of the House of Representatives accused by Jibrin on Sunday to have “blocked” his efforts to see Buhari to state his own version of the budget scandal just like the Speaker did.
The SSA said there had “never” been a time Jibrin requested through his office to see Buhari that he was denied access.
He said, “The way he has been going about this issue is unfortunate. He is dragging the names of innocent people into it.
“He has not approached me that he wants to see the President. If he makes a request, I will facilitate it for him. He knows the protocol.”
Kawu-Sumaila said his role in Dogara’s meeting with Buhari was to act as a facilitator.
He said he neither participated in the meeting nor knew the outcome.
The SSA added, “When the Speaker wanted to see Mr. President, he told me.
“I did my part to facilitate it. I was waiting at the office while they met. I was not at the meeting with them.
“It was after the meeting ended and the Speaker came out that I saw him off.
“The same thing would have happened if Jibrin requested to see the President.”
Meanwhile, the meeting of the Transparency Group, which was believed to be behind Jibrin, scheduled for Monday to review their strategies, had yet to take place as of 6pm on Monday.
Key figures in the group, including Mr. Abubakar Chika-Adamu and Mr. Baballe Bashir, did not pick their calls when The PUNCH made efforts to get an update.
Baballe, who had disclosed on Sunday that the group would meet in Abuja on Monday, also failed to reply to text messages that one of our correspondents sent to his mobile phones.
Jibrin meets with police panel
Jibrin on Monday met with the police Special Investigation Panel on the budget padding crisis in the House.
It was gathered that during the meeting, which began at 12pm at the Force headquarters, Abuja, Jibrin submitted a large number of documents and other evidence to prove his allegations against the Speaker and the others he accused of padding the budget.
Sources told our correspondent that the lawmaker also promised to bring more documents that were germane to the investigation into the alleged insertions under constituency projects in the 2016 budget.
A source explained that the SIP, led by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Amodu Ali (retd.), received the documents with a promise to diligently study them.
The source said, “Jibrin came with documents which he handed over to the SIP on Monday. It was obvious that he was well prepared to establish his allegations against the leadership of the House. He promised to bring more documents during the week.”
It was learnt that the SIP had said it would take time to study the documents and other evidence before summoning the accused to defend themselves.
“This is a high-profile case, so, the SIP is not in a hurry to conclude it; members will take their time, carry out a forensic analysis of the evidence provided, conduct a thorough and diligent probe and by the time they are through, no one would be able to fault the report of the investigation,” another source stated.
Our correspondent gathered that Dogara’s posturing after his meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa last Friday had initially confused police authorities who felt that he might have reached a political settlement with Buhari.
It was learnt that the Speaker’s statement that “budget padding is not an offence under the nation’s law” gave the public the impression that he and the President had agreed on the point.
Findings indicate that the investigation panel was later told not to get carried away by the Speaker’s publicised visit to the President, but must get to the root of the scandal.
The All Progressives Congress Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Timi Frank, in a statement in Abuja on Monday, said Jibrin would be punished for flouting the party’s order to cease public comments on the budget padding scandal in the House.
A letter addressed to Jibrin and signed by the APC Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu, last Thursday, had asked Jibrin to stop making public comments or issuing public statements on the lingering budget scandal after the leadership of the party had intervened in the matter.
But Jibrin had, in 82 tweets on Sunday accused Dogara of colluding with some serving governors and ex-lawmakers to change media narrative against him
Frank accused Jibrin of lack of respect for the Shuaibu-led committee, which was working “tirelessly to resolve the crisis.”
The statement partly read, “It is now obvious how disrespectful and desperate Jibrin could be, even to the leaders of our party, which include the National Deputy Chairman, North; National Secretary, National Treasurer, and others who have been sleeplessly working to ensure that peace returns to the House.
“But if Jibrin does not have respect for Speaker Dogara as a person, it is expected of him to respect the Office of the Speaker, the number four citizen of our party and the country.
“Jibrin should also be told that he has clearly shown disrespect for President Muhammadu Buhari who is the leader of our party by this singular act.
“It is high time Jibrin kept quiet and stopped this public show of shame before his excesses would be made known to Nigerians and the whole world.”
Frank said Jibrin’s continued “show of shame” did not only affect the lawmaker, but had great negative impact on the party, its members and the Buhari-led government.
“He should be also aware that disobeying the party in this manner may attract sanction, if the party deems it fit,” Frank stated.
Jibrin had alleged that Dogara and three other principal officers requested the inclusion of N40bn projects in the 2016 budget, besides sundry projects in sums ranging from N20bn to N30bn.
The other three are the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Lasun Yussuff; the Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor.
He claimed that his refusal to oblige the four principal officers and his opposition to several financial infractions were responsible for his sacking by Dogara on July 20.
The House had said the allegations would be investigated internally by the committee on ethics and privileges after members would have reconvened on September 13 from their annual recess.
There had been claims and counterclaims of signature collection to pass a vote of confidence on Dogara or ask him to step down.
Jibrin had claimed that 250 members were backing the calls for Dogara to resign.
However, on Sunday, some members dismissed Jibrin’s figure and claimed that “80 per cent (288) of the lawmakers” were with Dogara.
None of the sides has made the acclaimed registers public.
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