By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Even with the calls for his resignation closely reaching crescendo, Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Representatives has said he would not resign. “Resign for what?” He said during an interface with the State House Correspondents at the presidential villa yester-day.
Dogara had come under intense pressure sequel to the whistle blowing by his erstwhile ally and Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumin Jubrin.
Recall that Jubrin’s committee chiefly handled the in-house consideration of the 2016 budget estimates which later became very controversial following the staggering discoveries of the unsanctioned monetary figures.
The figures had scared President Muhammadu Buhari who vehemently refused to append his signature to the document after work was done on it by the National Assembly at the first phase.
The president had demanded the details of the approved budget but even with the availability of the budget details later, the president insisted he would not assent to the budget, alleging irregular inputs.
While he eventually signed the budget on May 6, 2016, many still held the impression that the document witnessed gross “padding”, a word which became popular in the literary lexicon of Nigerian political space. According to President Buhari, the word “padding” was novel to him as he had never heard of it in his previous national assignments both as a Military governor and Head of State.
But while the matter appeared to have died down, Jubril who was sacked by Dogara recently as the Chairman of Appropriation Committee raved it up, spilling the beans of what actually transpired during the budget consideration. He had openly and repeatedly accused the Speaker, his deputy, Yusuf Lasun and other principal officers of the House of gross financial misconduct to the tune of N40 billion.
And he wouldn’t stop whistle bowling until their political party, the All Progressives Congress, APC intervened in the matter early this week, restrained both parties from making further public exposé as it was obviously becoming embarrassing and more implicating. But this was after Jubrin had already taken a step ahead, petitioning the police department and anti-graft agencies to investigate the allegations.
Speaking with Journalists after a meeting of about 30 minutes with President Buhari at the Villa on Friday, Dogara said as a lawyer and old hand in the legislative affairs, padding was not an offence under the law. Asked if he was perturbed by the peddling of his name in the allegation, Dogara said he was not in any way worried, saying that the onus of proof rested with Jubrin.
Below was the detail of the chat with Journalists
Journalists: What informed your visit on a Friday?
Dogara: I can’t come and see my President? Do I need any reason to come and see my President. It’s a private visit
Journalists: Was the issue of alleged budget padding discussed?
Dogara: What is budget padding?
Journalists:The language emanated from your chamber?
Dogara: I don’t know, educate me. I am lawyer and the speaker and I have never heard of the word “padding”. What does padding mean?
Journalists: Your former chairman of appropriations is saying you padded the budget?
Dogara: Ask him. He who alleges must prove. That’s the law in Nigeria
Journalists: Are you not going to defend yourself?
Dogara: Am I before a court?
Journalists: There are people saying you should reconvene the House before September resumption time and step aside for thorough investigations?
Dogara: We have rules and regulations. This is not a mock institution. We operate by rules and we will follow the rules
Journalists: Will you resign?
Dogara: Resign for what, for what?
Journalists: On the allegations?
Dogara: What is the allegation?
Journalists: That you and some members of the house padded the budget?
Dogara: What is padding? You haven’t told me. Ask Jibrin what is padding? For me, I studied law and I have been in the legislature and all this period I have never heard of the word “padding” being an offence under any law. If I don’t know, you are the media, research the law and let me know
Journalists: Are you worried?
Dogara: Worried for what? Worried over nothing. Why should I be worried. As far as I am concerned, I am not worried over anything
Journalists: Will there be sanctions for Jibrin?
Dogara: I am not the chairman of Ethics committee of the House, so I wouldn’t know and I don’t know what padding means.