By Jibrin Ibrahim
A friend of mine recently described Abdulmumin Jibrin as “a young man who appears to be sulking, kicking and screaming about the these illegal pay-outs, which he has hitherto quietly enjoyed, now that he will be deprived of it for the next 180 days on account of serving his sentence for playing along only to spill the beans now.”
He might well be right that the legislator is sulking and expressing his anger at being kicked out but that in no way should lead us to belittle what he is revealing. It is difficult to think of any body that has revealed such direct information that proves that the National Assembly is a cesspool of greedy self-centred mega looters calling themselves “representatives of the people”.
Now we have somebody to quote to show that they are embezzling billions of Naira, distorting and destroying budgets and national expenditure objectives and corrupting public institutions. Jibrin is a whistle blower who is providing the nation vital information that can be used to stop the massive looting occurring in the National Assembly. No one ever said that whistle blowers are saints. They are usually sinners who for some motivation or the other decide to spill the beans. Congratulations Honourable Jibrin for all the great work you are doing.
I love his latest posting where he admits that he collected his payoff of N650 million as running cost while Chairman of the Appropriation Committee. Speaker Yakubu Dogara, he says collected N1.5 billion while his Deputy, Yusuf Lasun collected N800 million. The House Majority Leader Femi Gbajabiamila pocketed N1.2 billion while the Deputy Majority Leader Buba Jibrin got N1.2 billion. The House Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa took N1.2 billion and his deputy got N700 million while the House Minority Leader Leo Ogor got N1.2 billion, Poor ordinary members of the House of Representatives collect at least 10 million Naira every month and now we know that the amounts have been reduced from the earlier levels due to the difficult economic conditions. For years, Nigerians have been hearing rumours that the National Assembly has been looting and sharing Nigeria’s money and now we have it from an insider that it is indeed true.
My expectation is that the security and anti-corruption agencies would immediately investigate this matter and bring charges of money laundering and mega looting against the leadership of the National Assembly. In his letter to his colleagues in the House of Representatives last week, Abdulmumin Jibrin said: “I hereby DEMAND that if you have illegally taken or stolen any money meant for the RUNNING COST OF YOUR OFFICES FOR YOUR ENTIRE STAY IN THE HOUSE, YOU SHOULD RETURN THE MONEY WITHIN ONE WEEK TO THE CLERK OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND FOR THE PURPOSE OF CLARITY, I AM REFERRING TO ABOUT 10 MILLION NAIRA YOU COLLECT FROM TAX PAYERS’ MONEY MONTHLY. THE CLERK WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH OFFICIAL ACCOUNT DETAILS, FAILURE OF WHICH I WILL TAKE NECESSARY ACTION TO ENSURE THAT YOU RETURN ANY MONEY STOLEN AND STAND WITNESS AGAINST YOU IN CASE OF PROSECUTION.” Nigerians should join this campaign to make our legislators return our money that they have stolen. This should not be left as Jibrin’s struggle alone; it should be the struggle of every honest and patriotic Nigerian.
Jibrin’s colleagues have accused him of denting the image of the National Assembly, and suspended him for 180 legislative days following a brief self-preservation “inquiry”. His response is that the suspension would provide him a better opportunity to launch a full-scale legal assault against the House. He has also announced that he would seek “a massive alliance with civil society groups, NGOs and well-meaning Nigerian to continue to press ahead” the anti-corruption battle against legislators. I hope Nigerians will take up this challenge to work with all that are willing to combat mega corruption in the National Assembly and in our public institutions as well. Meanwhile, Honourable Jibrin has complained that the security agents provided to protect him against possible assassination have been withdrawn. I hope there is no plan to eliminate this important whistle blower.
A civil society coalition statement last week signed by ‘Yemi Adamolekun, the Executive Director of “Enough is Enough” drew attention to the lack of accountability in the National Assembly, which is very dangerous for our democracy because those who are elected to provide oversight over the executive arm’s implementation of our budget cannot be expected to provide leadership and ensure accountability when they have refused to be accountable with resources allocated to them. Over the last three years, the National Assembly has refused to respond to several Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and a court order to provide its detailed budget. Since the 8th Assembly was inaugurated, both the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives have promised to make the details of the National Assembly spending public. They have refused to do so. It is not surprising because we now know what they have been hiding from Nigerian citizens.
The combination of self-allocation of massive amounts of money to legislators as allowances with the provision of N100 billion of the budget as allocation for constituency projects means that significant resources for capital projects are simply pocketed by legislators. It is clear to that entire there is something fundamentally wrong with the way the National Assembly discharges its legislative and oversight duties. Self interest rather than the interest of the Nigerian people is the foundational principle. Given the seriousness and gravity of the allegations against the House leadership in particular, the outcome of any investigation under the leadership of the current principal officers cannot be acceptable to Nigerians. A den of thieves cannot sit in judgment over theft in the House. We now know that the National Assembly was placed a first line charge so that they can steal with reckless abandon.
We must stop them from looting our resources. The first step is that the Principal Officers in the House of Representatives and the Senate should step down from their roles while proper investigations are carried out by a neutral joint committee of the National Assembly. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should also accelerate its investigations and all those found to be implicated should be prosecuted.
Jibrin Ibrahim PhD, is Senior Fellow, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja, Nigeria.
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