Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesman of the House of Representatives, in this interview, sheds light on the reason for the suspension of his colleague and a former chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, last week. MUYIWA OYINLOLA and ADEBIYI ADEDAPO met him.
Senator Olusola Adeyeye from Osun state suggested that there should be a slash on salaries and allowances of National Assembly members, would you subscribe to this?
For me, I think people didn’t really understand the workings of the National Assembly, and how it is being funded, the entire budget of the National Assembly, not only salaries, the entire budget of the National Assembly is less than 2 per cent, so something which is less than 2 per cent, even if you slash it, I don’t know how that affects the economy negatively. Secondly, the entire budget of the National Assembly is not just the salaries of elected members, we have civil servants who work with the National Assembly, they are more than 3,000. We also have our aides who take close to N12billion annually, so it is not only members alone, we have NILS, we also have National Assembly Service Commission, we have the National Assembly Budget Office, there are certain parastatals. So, when people talk about the budget of the National Assembly, they look at the National Assembly, what is the fraction that goes to the members as salaries. People assume that ones they say it is N115 billion, it used to be N150 billion, latter it was reduced to N120 billion, in this 2016 budget, it was N115 billion, so people assume that if the budget is N115 billion. There are 360 members in the House of Representatives and 109 Senators, so they divide the 469 by N115 billion, and that is take home, it is not true. The National Assembly is not constituted with only elected members, there are civil servants, aides and other agencies, so to me it is not an issue that people will put in the front burner, but sacrifices can be made across the board, if people want, it is not only in the National Assembly, look at other agencies of government. Look at the executive, this sacrifice should not just be restricted to National Assembly. The sacrifice should cut across.
Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin alleged that the 2016 budget was padded, and he was eventually suspended. People are saying that the suspension was to cover-up the antics in the House, how do you react to this?
What I understand is that from the outside, people don’t actually know what is happening in the National Assembly. Let me give you an example, as I talk to you today, there is no petition before the National Assembly, by Jibrin or any other member of the House against Dogara or any principal officer in respect of any budget matter, there is none. So, what will the house investigate? Jibrin, as far as I am concerned does not have confidence in the National Assembly institution, he decided to take his case outside the National Assembly, he sent petitions to ICPC, EFCC, Police, and even foreign missions. Now we are not in a position to talk about things that are outside the National Assembly, if EFCC received a petition and decided to act on it, that is not for me to say no, if they refuse to act on it, it is also not for me, it is EFCC that will, mention why they did and why they did not. But as far as we are concerned, we don’t have anything here, what happened here is that is that our collective privilege has been breached, somebody just said that the entire House is corrupt, that all investigative hearing in the National Assembly is based on corruption, all oversight functions are based on corruption.
These are statements that cannot be substantiated, all of us and you said there is systematic corruption in the House, and these are baseless issues that cannot be scientifically proved. There is a rule here, we have a code of conduct for anybody who goes out to disparage our image, we have to get back our image. When a motion was raised by Oker-Jev and referred to the Ethics and Privileges Committee, it is to investigate the breach of our collective privilege. And we gave him the opportunity of fair hearing, according to section 36 of the constitution, the opportunity was provided for him to state his case, he didn’t come. He said he wouldn’t appear until it is made public, that was granted. He later said he wasn’t sure of the chairman’s objectivity, because the he granted a press interview and said there is no padding, the chairman said okay, come forward, if you appear, put forward your own case, I will step aside and another person will take over, he still refused to come, so what do we do in this case? So, there is nothing to cover-up, because there is nothing before us to be investigated. What I am saying is that assuming Jibrin petitioned Dogara and it is before Ethics and Privileges, then that will be investigated, but there is no petition. What do we investigate?
The decision to suspend Jibrin from the House for 180 legislative days is seemingly too too harsh against the people of Kiru-Bebeji federal constituency where he represents, why not a mild sanction?
This punishment is not meted out just like that, if you look at the recommendation of the committee, some sections of the rules was quoted. It’s just like when you go to a court, and a judge finds you guilty, he does not just pronounce sanction, he looks at the relevant laws and you are penalized based on those laws. The good thing is that laws are meant to correct erring individuals or to serve as deterrent for other people, it not just about Abdulmumini, if tomorrow I do the same, I should know that I will go the way of Abdulmumini. So, I better behave. We are elected by the people to come and represent them here, so you should be conscious of what you are sent to do here, not to come and fight people, you are short changing your people, not us. It was very obvious, he was asked to appear before the committee and state his case, if he had apologised before the committee, probably the recommendation would not be in this manner, but because he didn’t appear, and he acknowledged recipient of the letter, he even gave conditions for his appearance. Jibrin cannot dictate to the committee how to operate, you cannot go to a court and dictate to the judge, it’s not done. So, we gave him the opportunity and he abused it and the law has taken it’s cause, it is not vindictive; tomorrow, if somebody does that it may even be higher, but to prevent that, he should have been well behaved.
What is the possibility of a political solution?
Well, that has to come from Jibrin, not from us again, because an opportunity was created for him to appear before the committee and say his own side of the story, he refused, even after listing conditions, so we cannot ask him to come for any political solution. The man has done worse than we could imagine, there is nothing Jibrin will say tomorrow, to me, that will be different from what he has said in the past, he has said so much and all of them appear not to be true. Let me give you instances, for you to know, jibrin said the Senate should pass a resolution to take over the House of Representatives. Now after spending five years in the national Assembly, I don’t expect Jibrin to make that kind of mistake, because even a resolution to take over a state’s House of Assembly by the National Assembly must be a resolution of the two Houses. In the case of Kogi state, we took the decision first, and later the senate, before it became a law. If it was only the senate, without concurrence of the House, it cannot take effect, for him to suggest that alone, we should hold him by that statement, apart from the corruption matter, because he is asking that the institution that he has served for five years should not exist, that is a case on its own, because he is not being fair to us. Secondly, he was telling you during the recess that he has over 250 signatures, now have you seen the over 250 signatures, where are they? Because when the question was out yesterday, no single voice said nay, and the law says he who asserts should prove. He should have proved his case, Nigerians would have been very happy with him, that he is following-up the matter, but every day he is in the media.
It doesn’t mean that the punishment stops there, if he refuses to apologise as demanded by the House, what should we expect?
There will be further sanctions, because we asked him to present a written apology that means if he doesn’t show remorse, there will be further sanctions. When the matter was referred to the Ethics and Privileges committee, every reasonable persons would expect that Jibrin would no longer grant press interviews, and he would appear before the committee, but Jibrin was still granting interviews, issuing statements, now there is no guarantee that if he comes back, after the 180 legislative days, he will still show remorse that is why we said he should write a letter of apology, we will now know that with that we can be sure that the man has changed, but if he doesn’t, then I am not sure that the thing is over.
What actually went wrong within the period of one year, Jibrin actually nominated the Speaker for election, at what point did things go wrong between the two of them?
I wouldn’t say there was a problem between Jibrin and Dogara. For people who have been in the National Assembly, they know that when Jibrin presided over the budget matter, the mere fact that the President did not sign the budget was an indication that Jibrin’s chairmanship had been brought to question, because if you are chairing a committee that was meant to do something, and the President said no, I won’t sign because I haven’t gotten details, later when the details came, the President said, look there are grey areas that needed to be touched and he sent back the budget to the MDA’s who came out with areas that they weren’t comfortable with, this same Speaker that Jibrin has been battering his image was the one who saved the situation, he went to the President and said Mr. President, please re-submit the budget, which is unparliamentarily, so that we could move ahead, because if we had wasted so much time, the 30 days period which he is allowed to sign the budget would have elapsed and if it elapses, it means we would have to go all over again, everything new and we were not ready for all the stories, because we are in the same party. So, the President re-submitted and because we don’t want to fall into the same problem that Jibrin put us in, that was why a tripartite committee of three persons was set-up, made up of a member of the House of Representatives, Senate and for the first time the executive, on that committee, headed by the deputy speaker Yussuf Lasun. Now this was done to correct what Jibrin didn’t do well, if Jibrin felt strongly about what he was doing now, he should have at the point that the President didn’t sign the budget said, Mr. President, this problem that you identified was caused by XYZ, that’s why this thing became like this, Nigerians would have been clapping for him by now. He would have been a champion, but he did not raise those fundamental issues, that was why this tripartite committee sorted out things.
One serious thing that I want you journalists to understand is this, there are people who said after the budget was signed, some three or four persons went back to insert certain things, this is to me is an abuse of common sense, this is the reason; a committee representing the senate, House of Representatives and the executive sat down and agreed on a clean budget, after all the exercise was conducted, everybody was comfortable with it, after which they took it to the President, all the ministers have copies, they know what is there, the President looked at it, scrutinised it and appended his signature, so at what stage did some four people inserted some other things? Even if there are people who did that, the ministers should have been the whistle blowers, not the legislator, because the minister went back to their ministries with what they agreed on at the committee level and a certain contract was not part of it, where did it come from? So, they are trying to tell the ministers who represent the President that some people outsmarted them, or that the President didn’t know what he was doing, this is not fair, these are men of integrity, they salvaged what Jibrin didn’t do properly, so at what point did somebody smuggle anything, because it was no longer plenary, the one we approved at the plenary, the President did not sing it into law, he said there were issues, if it was that one that you said somebody went round, it is a different thing all together, but the clean copy that came out with ministers together, and the people that were alleged were no even part of the committee.
So at what point did the relationship go sour between Jibrin and the Speaker go sour?
The Speaker realised this and felt that we shouldn’t get into the same crisis with the 2017 budget. Members discovered that Jibrin did not carry along even the committee members in, it was a one man show by him, and this is process no one man can do, because after House of Representatives, it has to go to the senate, so it is a long process, so for us not to have issues, the leadership of that committee needs to change, so when Jibrin realised that he would be replaced, he became angry, that was where the problem started. Left to members, in hollow chamber, Jibril would have been fired long before then, in fact, members were happy with the speaker for allowing Jibrin to stay longer than necessary, at that time if Jibrin speaks on the floor, members will say no…. no… no.., as a journalist who cover the House, you should know what I am talking about, so when he was about to leave, he said he is not going alone, he will go down with everybody, now stood our grounds that he can’t go down with any of us, because the allegations are not proved, everything has a procedure, if you go to court they talk about laws and rules, this House also have a rule, it is regulated by a code of conduct, if I were Jibrin, I would have brought the petition here first, if I didn’t get a fair hearing, then he can go somewhere else, because even in the outside world, if the first court didn’t give you justice, you go to appeal, and even supreme. But he didn’t believe in this institution, yet he wants the institution to investigate, we are asking, to investigate what?
How can the image of the National Assembly, particularly, House of Representatives be revitalise?
Jibrin’s suspension is one of the ways to revitalise the image, because we know that it is not true that all of us are corrupt and if you have any issue with anybody, take the issue and push it, not make blanket statements. The legislature is like a new arm of government, we have been under the military for a very long time, so people feel that they can live their lives even without the legislature, because they have lived it before under the military, so people are not used to approving expenditures of government by the legislature, so now for you to spend kobo, the legislature must approve it for you, so people are not comfortable, all the time they hit blames on the legislature because they don’t understand the working of the legislature so well. This is the first step, he is going to court, we are here and we will meet him in court, he has sworn several times to see the end of this, we are all around.
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