PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, who accused lawmakers of padding 2018 budget, had failed to act when when a lawmaker had called his attention two years earlier.
Abdulmumin Jibrin, former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, blew the whistle in 2016 that some top members of the National Assembly were involved in budget padding, but President Muhammadu Buhari failed to take any concrete action.
Two years later, the menace of budget padding had become so deep that Buhari had to bring it to the notice of Nigerians.
During a brief ceremony to sign the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law on Wednesday, President Buhari accused members of the National Assembly of cutting down allocations for some key infrastructure projects, while inserting “6,403 projects of their own, amounting to N578 billion” into the budget.
“Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation. Some of the new projects inserted by the national assembly have not been properly conceptualized, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute,” Buhari said.
These same observations had been raised by Jibrin in 2016, when he alleged that Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, his deputy, Yusuf Lasun, House whip, Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, had inserted projects worth several billions of naira into the 2016 budget. Jibrin later added another lawmaker, Abonta Abonta, to the list.
Among the many allegations, was the introduction of “about 2,000 projects … amounting to about N284 billion” into the 2016 budget, by members of “10 out of the 96 Standing Committees of the House”.
Jibrin refused to retract his allegations, rather he took further steps by submitting petitions to the EFCC, ICPC and the Nigeria Police.
“I will not (retract my statement) and will never apologize to a shameless fraud in high office who has glaringly abused public trust like speaker Dogara and the three others,” Jibrin said at the time.
But rather than take legal actions, Dogara commenced “disciplinary actions” against Jibrin which culminated in the latter’s 180-legislative-day suspension from the House.
Reports at the time had it that the EFCC began a secret investigation into Jibrin’s allegations against Dogara, but nothing has been heard of it ever since.
When Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, then Acting President, signed the 2016 Budget into law, Jibrin lamented that he (Osinbajo) has played into the hands of the national assembly.
Perhaps, this is the reason the presidency paid more attention to the 2018 budget process, though it was still unable to stop the padding.
However, Buhari said he intends “to seek to remedy some of the most critical of these issues through a supplementary and/or amendment budget”.