Posted by News Express | 10 August 2016 | 1,935 times
Few days before my return from a vacation in the United Kingdom late last Month, I was with some friends discussing the ill-fate and consequential misfortune of good governance in Nigeria and why development has eluded much of Nigeria, despite many decades of heavy and profitable crude oil exploration and exports which have yielded billions in revenue. One of the discussants, a Nigerian by parentage but British by birth and who, indeed, has not visited Nigeria for 30 years drew attention to the stories emanating from the Nigerian parliament. We quickly browsed through the electronic copies of Nigerian newspapers and some credible online platforms to read up the celebrated stories relating to some widely published, but highly emotive allegations: that the Speaker the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara has been accused by one of his most trusted foot-soldiers, Mr Abdulmumin Jibrin, of padding the 2016 budget with over N30 billion ,which means that the amount when cash-backed would become a swish fund for the spending pleasure of the Office of the Speaker.
But I noticed that the accuser, Mr Jibrin, has just spoken because he has lost out of favour from the hierarchy of the House of Representatives, as he was dethroned from his juicy position as the Appropriation Committee Chairman. I, then, told my audience that there is more to these wild allegations against the House of Reps Speaker than meets the eyes. This is because for one calendar year of his leadership, Mr Dogara, an accomplished litigation lawyer has provided transparent and accountable leadership which, even, this Representative from Kano State had in recent past defended vigorously. I think this young man from Kano State, who has been in the House of Representatives for some 10 years, is simply taking Nigerians on a wild goose chase, because he knows that sensational stories sell like hot cake; since most readers of media content in Nigeria are hardly critical and many have no patience to seek the whole truth, but would simply fly with sensational and catchy stories no matter how fake and untrue they are.
As we were still exchanging ideas, one of my friends then reminded us of the numerous failures of the Nigerian government to keep to its electoral promises, even as he affirmed that the nation’s parliament does not need these kind of externally-influenced campaign of calumny in order to more faithfully carry out the duties of over sight on the other arms of government, to ensure that Nigerians begin to witness good governance. As a stakeholder in both the politics and human rights sector of Nigeria, yours faithfully have had cause to closely monitor how the Speaker Dogara has practised open government. For a man from a Christian minority community in the North-east of Nigeria, Mr Dogara is known to have liberalised the hierarchical order of the parliament in order to allow for greater participation by his peers.
So, why is Jibrin crying wolf just when he was relieved of his job? Before tackling this interrogatory, let me quickly remind our readers of the enormous responsibility of the House of Representatives in mainstreaming respect for the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian citizenry. Mr Manfred Nowak, a Senior United Nations Advisor, has consistently written richly researched articles to demonstrate the overwhelming role of the parliament towards ensuring promotion and protection of human rights. So, this sponsored acrimony by Jibrin, which definitely must be from the Presidency, which is increasingly being accused of failing to provide quality leadership, will affect the central role of the House of Representatives regarding human rights.
“When it comes to human rights and protection, parliaments and members of parliaments are essential actors: parliamentary activity as a whole - legislating, adopting the budget and overseeing the executive branch - covers the entire spectrum of political, civil economic, social and cultural rights and, thus, has an immediate impact on the enjoyment of human rights by the people. As the state institution which represents the people and through which they participate in the management of public affairs, parliament is indeed a guardian of human rights. Parliament must be aware of this role at all times, because the country’s peace, social harmony and steady development largely depend on the extent to which human rights permeate all parliamentary activity. For parliaments to fulfill effectively their role as guardians of human rights, specific criteria must be met and safeguards established.
“Parliament’s authority derives, to a large extent, from its capacity to reflect faithfully, the diversity of all components of society. These include, inter alia, men and women, various political opinions, ethnic groups, and minorities. To achieve this, members of parliament must be chosen by the sovereign people - in free and fair elections by universal, equal and secret suffrage - in accordance with the principles set forth in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration Human Rights and Article 25 of CCPR.”
Interestingly, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) is worried by the recent developments in the once calmed and peaceful House of Representatives, headed by a constitutional lawyer, Mr Dogara. The rights group issued a communiqué, after it held a colloquium attended by 26 civil society groups. Excerpt from the communiqué states as follows: “We are specifically bothered by the sudden eruption of politically-instigated controversy surrounding the 2016 appropriation, which has for long been passed by the National Assembly and signed into law of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We are aware that this same budget, as we were told, was heavily padded by officials working in the Budget Office of the Executive arm of government for which the media reported that some directors were reassigned to other less-juicy places. But no single official of the Federal Government was prosecuted or sanctioned since by law they ought not to criminally tamper with the proposed appropriation budget okayed and submitted by Mr. President.
“Even President Muhammadu Buhari, who was on series of globe-trotting activities then, was quoted as telling his audience that those who padded the budget in the Federal Cabinet would be dealt with. But, as we are already notoriously getting used to our business-as-usual tendency, the matter quietened down, but this same matter has been resurrected by the dismissed chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Mr Jibrin. This man - for the many months that the controversy over the theft of the original deposit of the copy of the then proposed federal budget lasted - actively defended the integrity and innocence of the House of Representatives. But as soon as misfortune smiled on him, with his dropping from the juicy position, started singing like an 'ecstatic canary bird that just swallowed some ecstatic substances'.
“This character - rather than submit himself for investigation ab initio or say what role anyone of his committee member or the larger house played if any in influencing the suspected padding of the proposed budget - was the most vociferous defender of the House. But his eventual dethronement from hierarchy of the House of Representatives is now the motivating factor for him to suddenly rebrand himself into the ‘public defender’ of the 'truth' and by so doing he has made nonsense of his public standing in the eyes of critical members of the public. He is lucky that we live in an epoch whereby the gullibility of most consumers of popular media content has impeded any critical inquisitions or inquiry of any allegations published in the media, like other people do in the advanced democracies.
“In developed societies, decent people would have by now dismissed him as a drowning man who wants to collapse and sink with whatever his hands desperately holds on to; but alas, in the local media in Nigeria such soft tissues of uninvestigated claims are made page one story.
Gentlemen, as media stakeholders, we in HURIWA and our 26 other affiliates, are disturbed about the ethical deterioration of the editorial foundations of the Nigerian media.
“The media should have asked Mr Jibrin whether he was the same character associated with infamous anti-democratic gambit of 'Million-man march' for the then maximum military despot to transmute into life president, which was disingenuously called Youth Ernest Ask For Abacha (YEAA). Was that Abdulmumin Jibrin allegedly linked with that infamous anti-democratic gambit for, Abacha his twin brother, or is it another case of identity theft and/or mistaken identity?
“Gentlemen, this Jibrin-instigated 'crisis' is fraught with several layers of fault-lines and political innuendos.”
The entire political drama is becoming curiouser, because it coincided with the most curious season whereby conspiracy theories are swirling around the necks of Presidency officials suspected of funding subterranean plots to 'overthrow' the properly constituted hierarchy in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with the recent infamous Nicodemus-type of visits to the President by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors, curiously known as 'progressive' governors forum headed by the most incompetent governor ever in Nigeria's history: Owelle Rochas Okorocha. General Obasanjo (retd) emerged from his surprise meeting with President Buhari only to cast aspersions on the integrity of a very strategic institution of democracy, the National Assembly by his blanket accusations that virtually all the elected representatives of the Nigerian people are rogue elements. Obasanjo, it was, who unsuccessfully sought to subvert the Constitution through contrived amendments to railroad him into self-perpetuation as life president. Curiously, Obasanjo told journalists in the State House that as a ‘messenger’ he was in the Villa to deliver a message to the President. The same period coincided with a meeting of the President with APC governors, who reportedly went away with N2 billion each to wage internecine battle to overthrow the constituted leadership of the Red Chamber of the National Assembly; because, as they carelessly stated, the National Assembly is not cooperating with President Buhari.
The story that was circulated concerning the N2 billion was that it was meant to balance the equilibrium, since the immediate past Peoples Democratic Party-produced President Goodluck Jonathan dashed the same amount to some (not all) PDP governors who were servile to his ambition but left out APC governors and some other PDP governors considered antagonistic to him (Jonathan). But in the ‘Naira rain’ at Aso Rock, only APC governors participated in the bonanza while the other disaffected PDP governors who were reportedly left out by Jonathan were not mentioned.
Leader of the APC Governors Forum who met the President, nevertheless, stated in black-and-white that the deputy Senate president is in their radar for removal from his coveted seat, so the only APC senator just 'procured' through an ethically-challenged electoral process can take over. What kind of legacy are we passing on to our children? Do we want them to believe that governors can gang up and receive bribe to instigate the illegal and financially-induced overthrow of a democratically constructed leadership of an arm of government?
Then, there is this APC senator in Bauchi who was recently attacked by hired protesters, who alleged that he was disloyal to Bauchi State governor and President Buhari. The man, apparently unable to withstand the heat in the kitchen, has surrendered his suspected loyalty to the Senate leadership in preference for his newly-professed total loyalty to the change mantra of Mr. President. All these, plus the vociferous effort of Jibrin to destabiliee the House leadership, points to well-choreographed plots by reactionary anti-democratic forces within the seat of power to psychologically, and through contrived subterfuge, pummel the National Assembly leadership into submission, so that full dictatorship can take root in Nigeria. The popular view on social media is that the wings of both the civil society community and judiciary have been clipped.
In the case of the judiciary, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has never pretended that it has been detailed to harass and intimidate the judges into rendering pro-government rulings, some of which are so outrageous that most decent minds are genuinely afraid that Nigeria’s democracy may be imperiled.The President should speak to Nigerians and clear the fog of suspicion that he is using law enforcement agencies under his control to harass and intimidate his opponents and to emasculated the other two arms of government.
The question arises: Is Jibrin beaten by the bugs of abachais which, in summary, is a perpetual inclination to avail his services to undermine democracy? The way and manner he has executed this formidable and well-funded campaign of calumny against the House leadership shows some hidden agenda. For the fact that he has started romantically inviting the DSS, an agency currently accused of being notorious for servile attachment to President Buhari’s political agenda, tells that there's more to it than meets the eye.
We stand to be corrected: Jibrin has engaged some communication marketers. And it is not certainly a small budget-fight. During a visit to UK by our national coordinator, one of Jibrin's communication marketers made overtures to have our sister online newspaper to run his outrageous allegations against the Speaker. But our team, together with our London Bureau, asked him to pay for the publication after our in-house vetting as advertisement. But the bill couldn't be agreed upon, as the person on the other end of the phone sent us a text in response to ours that his budget can't accommodate the bill our online newspaper billed him.
Gentlemen, my dear readers, this drama by Jibrin is being sponsored to destabilise democracy; and all lovers of democracy must speak out. The understanding of the powers of the National Assembly seems to say that the legislature is constitutionally empowered to vet proposed budget, since these elected officials aren't rubberstamps of Mr President. For Femi Falana, who has fully taken up the gauntlet to always support the brazen illegality of the current Federal Government, to say that the lawmakers can reduce but can't increase budget sub-heads as proposed is disingenuous and is as good as saying that a husband can only impregnate his wife but can't pay the bills of caring for the offspring.
We endorse the explanation by the Senate leader who said the Constitution permits the legislators to tinker and work on the proposed or indeed any proposed budget or legislative bills. By the way, what is the work of the lawmakers as related to budget-making?
It is disingenuous, therefore, for the sacked Appropriation Committee Chair, Jibrin, to make any claims of ‘Exposing massive corruption in House of Reps, Accuses Speaker Dogara of moves to personally smuggle N30bn into 2016 Budget,’ as tendentiously and sensationally reported by a section of the media even without subjecting these baseless allegations to critical scrutiny.
The former chairman, House of Representatives appropriation committee, Mr Jibrin, a former ally of the Speaker, had said that he chose to step down for personal reasons.
His words: “Lately, I openly disagreed with some principal officers on the issue of immunity for lawmakers and budget issues. I still maintained I will never support immunity. I strongly believe with every conviction that in cleaning up the budgeting system and considering what transpired during 2016 budget, which I have all the facts documented, Speaker Dogara, Deputy Speaker Lasun, Whip Doguwa and minority Leader Leo Ogor should resign.”The House leadership is competent enough to defend itself and it has done just that when the spokes person stated thus; “We wish to say that it is the prerogative of the Selection Committee of the House to appoint and remove committee chairmen. That power has been so exercised in the case of Hon.
Abdulmumin Jibrin as chairman of Appropriation Committee. Most of the allegations on the 2016 budget process and his opposition to immunity of presiding officers are non-issues and mere afterthought manufactured simply because the House relieved him of his position.”
Our take on Mr Jibril’s bogus argument that the ‘desperate’ advocates for immunity clause for National Assembly leadership in the ongoing constitutional amendment was an effort to conceal the so-called padding of the budget is to say that he must not take all Nigerians to be intellectually weak, as not to remember that this issue of parliamentary immunity had featured prominently and was defeated in previous constitution amendment process over the last 16 years.
By the way, why do we have Section 308 (i) which confers immunity to some persons in the executive arm and Jibrin, the new ‘pro-transparency’ campaigner sees nothing wrong but has cheaply held on to the inclusion move currently by the National Assembly for immunity clause as his life-line for selling his poorly manufactured propaganda?
•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via firstname.lastname@example.org
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