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Monday, 1 August 2016

House Leader, Gbajabiamila, breaks silence, reacts to budget padding scandal

Gbajabiamila
The Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has broken his silence over the budget padding scandal rocking the lower chamber, following accusations of budget fraud made against Speaker Yakubu Dogara and others by former appropriations committee chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
Mr. Gbajabiamila had remained silent since the House descended into a crisis that has drawn the attention of anti-corruption agencies, and sparked calls for the Speaker to step aside.
Mr. Gbajabiamila gave his position via emails sent to members of the House on Monday. A lawmaker shared the message with a PREMIUM TIMES reporter.
Mr. Gbajabiamila confirmed to this newspaper he disseminated the message in which he asked not to be dragged into “an arena I tried very hard to stay out of”.
Mr. Jibrin had last year withdrawn from the speakership race to back Mr. Dogara who was then running a tight race against Mr. Gbajabiamila, the then anointed candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
There were speculations last week that Mr. Jibrin had teamed up with Mr. Gbajabiamila to unseat the Speaker.
But Mr. Gbajabiamila, through his media aide, Wasiu Olanrewaju, told PREMIUM TIMES he had no deal with Mr. Jibrin or any problem with Mr. Dogara’s leadership.
He however called for investigation of the allegations, and cautioned against taking sides.
The Lagos lawmaker circulated emails to colleagues after some unknown people sent text messages around suggesting he was part of a group working discreetly to force a leadership change in the House.
The anonymous message was sent from phone number 08119106894.
It reads,”Plot to destabilize the leadership of the House of Reps has taken a new dimension as the AGF working with Gbajabiamila, Jibrin & SGF has (sic) drafted charges to arraign and 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 and 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.”
But Mr. Gbajabiamila, in his email to lawmakers, denied claims made in the anonymous message.
He said, “Since the budget controversy that engulfed the House about a week ago, I have pointedly maintained a dignified silence. I did this for the sake of the institution I represent and which I have laboured hard to grow and protect, knowing that whatever I say could be impactful both within the House and outside it.
“I was determined to keep in place the glue that holds an otherwise fragmented House, protect its integrity and at same time avoid eroding the little confidence and vestiges of hope Nigerians have in us.
“I am being dragged into an arena I tried very hard to stay out of only for the good of the House. The Speakership election has come and gone. The election was divisive and acrimonious but I have since worked hard to heal the wounds some of which still fester amongst members on both sides.
“It is my responsibility to bring all tendencies in a House I lead together and I have worked well with the Speaker and all other Principal officers in a bipartisan manner and in the interest of the institution and members.
“It is clear that our budget process needs radical reform and very quickly too. Yes, allegations have been made but I strongly believe judgment should not be passed based on allegations. We operate a constitutional democracy and we must at all times submit to its dictates and ethos. All parties are innocent until otherwise proven. This should be our guide. I plead with all members. The mudslinging must stop.
“This text message, which desperately seeks to finger me in some macabre plot to destabilize the House is a throwback and echoes our dark post Speakership election history. The resurfacing or resurgence of the faceless text messengers will not help us as a House and let me quickly add that it will fail.”
“My strongest critics and biggest political adversaries in the House cannot deny the fact that my commitment has always been to strengthen the legislature and its processes and our democracy as a whole. I consider everyone a friend and colleague and urge that as we collectively work towards a stronger legislature and strive to deepen our democracy, we do not pull back the hands of the clock nor lose sight of the enormous responsibility placed upon us by providence as members of a critical arm of government.”

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