According to reports, the secretariat of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation is now a no go area. The office, located in Room 16,White House at the National Assembly Complex ,was sealed off yesterday by security men as claims and counter claims intensified over alleged padding of the 2016 budget by principal officers of the Green Chamber of the NASS.
Staff and members of the committee were denied access to the office by a team of four security men said to be from the Department of State Security (DSS).
The DSS is the latest of the security agencies after the Police to wade into the controversy over padding of the 2016 budget by the House.
Sacked chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, sparked the controversy when he alleged that he was fired by Speaker Yakubu Dogara because he refused his bidding and that of Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun; Majority Whip Alhassan Doguwa; and Minority Whip Leo Ogor to pad the budget to the tune of N40b.
Dogara and the rest have denied the allegation, saying it was Jibrin that padded the budget, hence his removal as committee chair.
They wondered why he kept quiet until his sack before making his allegations.
The sealing of the committee office yesterday came on the heels of allegation by Jibrin that Dogara stormed there and removed computers and some other materials for the purpose of stalling investigation.
Jibrin reportedly visited the SSS Headquarters on Friday to brief the agency about the budget padding scandal rocking the House. He also asked EFCC and ICPC to commence investigation into the crisis with a view to prosecuting those involved.
The new chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Mustapha Dawaki (APC, Kano), however, told reporters yesterday that there was no such thing.
Dawaki, reading from a July 29, 2016 letter from the Clerk of the Committee, Abel Ochigbo, to the acting Clerk, House of Representatives and the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, said: “The Secretariat is intact and has not been threatened anyway. All records are also intact and safe – both software and hardware.
“In addition, no staff in the secretariat of the committee has been subjected to any form of threat, intimidation or harassment from any quarter whatsoever.”
Contrary to Dawaki’s claim, however, Ochigbo and his staff were denied entry into the office by the security men. When the Clerk sought to know why he could not enter his office, the security men told him to seek an answer from ‘above’.
Ochigbo then left in frustration only to return to ask on whose instructions the security men were acting.
Dawaki, at his press conference, declined to answer any question on the allegation that nine members of the Appropriation committee were bribed by Speaker Dogara to disparage Jibrin.
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Speaker, Mr. C.I. D Maduabum who was named by Jibrin as having shared the $20000, had earlier on Friday dismissed the allegation as a lie.
Some vested interests are apparently cashing in on the development to divide the House.
A member who pleaded anonymity yesterday accused Dogara of coercing some members into supporting him in the crisis.
The source said the plan of the Speaker was to divide the House by sending hate-inducing text messages to members.
He forwarded to reporters a text message said to have emanated from Dogara’s camp which said: “Plot to destabilize the leadership of the House of Reps has taken a new dimension as the AGF working with Gbajabiamila, Jibrin & SGF has drafted charges to arraign & detain principal officers of the House so that the transparency group who recently met with Tinubu’s wife will effect a leadership change with Gbajabiamila as Speaker & Jibrin as Deputy.
“This is why Jibrin did not mention Femi in his allegations. The 8th House won’t be anybody’s rubber stamp. We will resist them like the Senate resisted them.”
The source said the message was to turn members against Jibrin and those mentioned in the text. He said:”This intention is to malign those accused in the text so that members would see them as enemies.
“They want to turn us against one another , especially those seen as belonging to Transparency Group and even against the leadership of the party.
“What have those not in the National Assembly that were mentioned got to do with this fight?
“We are searching to reposition the country. These allegations are coming out from within us, yet they want us to believe that they are coming from outside.
“Isn’t that absurd?
“We will not allow it. God has revealed this and it is up to us to help ourselves by standing for the truth.”
Also yesterday, a group National Youth Council of Nigeria petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the alleged padding of the 2014 budget with about N418m worth of contracts by Abdulmumin Jibrin.
The petitioners said that Jibrin, while serving as House Committee Chairman on Finance, padded the budget with projects domiciled under the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons and other agencies.