The Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, has asked the sacked Chairman, Appropriation Committee of the House, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, to retract alleged defamatory publications against his person and tender an unreserved apology within seven days.
Dogara, who made this demand through his lawyers, Prof. Joash Ojo (SAN) and Prof. Joash Amupitan (SAN), said Jibrin should be ready for a legal battle if he refused to publish the retraction and the apology in prominent print and electronic media within the seven-day ultimatum.
Part of Dogara’s letter to Jibrin reads, “The attention of our client has been drawn to a libellous press statement you issued on Monday, July 25, 2016, which was made available to members of the press (print and electronic media) titled, ‘THE CORRUPT SPEAKER YAKUBU DOGARA AND HIS 3-MAN CABAL.’
“In the said publication, you published words to the following effect concerning our client and three other principal members of the House of Representatives:
‘Honourable colleagues and fellow Nigerians, I wish to make further revelations.
‘Speaker Yakubu Dogara and his senior cabal, namely Deputy Speaker, Lasun; Whip, Doguwa; and Minority Leader, Ogor; has (sic) promoted corruption so badly in the House that if President Muhammadu Buhari with his disdain for corruption and corrupt people has the slightest idea, he will ban the QUARTET permanently from the Villa before they eventually allow for proper and unbiased investigation by the House.
‘Mr. Speaker and Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun diverted millions of naira, all in the name of paying for guest houses and official residences. The issue became so messy that the deputy speaker openly accused Hon. Herman Hembe of short-changing them of millions of naira in the deal to the shock of many honourable members.’’
The lengthy letter also quoted Jibrin’s budget padding allegations of N40bn; N30bn and N20bn.
It added, “By the said publication and without putting to the public any shred of evidence, our client is portrayed as a criminal, corrupt, dishonest, fraudulent, dishonourable and unfit to hold the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“Consequently, we consider your publication on the matter as not only libellous but made in bad faith; an act of vendetta, owing to your recent removal as the Chairman of House Committee on Appropriation.
“Sequel to the above, we have to request you to submit immediately to us a clear and unqualified apology and retraction of the publication in an equally conspicuous position in all the print and electronic media where the publication appeared.
“TAKE NOTICE that in the event of your failure/refusal to comply with the above mentioned demands within seven days of your receipt of this letter, we have further instructions to institute a suit against you in a court of law.
“If we have to pursue this course, we shall be claiming aggravated and exemplary damages.”
Jibrin, however, dismissed Dogara’s threat, saying he was not surprised that the speaker rushed to court, hoping to get a cover.
He added that he had formally contacted the EFCC and the ICPC on the allegations through his lawyers to get a date to submit a petition against the four principal officers.
Jibrin stated, “He (Dogara) fails to realise that the law is not intended to protect corrupt people. It is such a shame. I have responded to their allegations. Rather than respond to mine, he is rushing to court. I stand by my allegations and will not withdraw them!
“I am happy to announce that my lawyers have officially approached the EFCC and the ICPC towards working out a date for me to personally submit my petition against Speaker Yakubu Dogara; Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun; Whip Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor.”
Meanwhile, Jibrin also reacted to Tuesday’s briefing by Namdas, where the latter defended Jibrin’s sacking.
He claimed that the text of the briefing was full of “lies” formulated by the four principal officers.
Jibrin denied that he ever increased the budget size by N250bn, neither did he provide N4.1bn projects for his constituency in Kano State.
He explained, “There has never been any version of the 2016 budget that was produced with an increased size of N250bn. It is an extension of the wicked propaganda and and desperate search for lies and blackmail by Speaker Dogara and the three others. If at all there is, let them bring it out.
“One single allegation that I may probably carry on with it and keep explaining for the rest of my life is the N4.1bn worth of projects I allocated to my constituency.
“When this allegation came out, I was already under instruction by Speaker Dogara to stop talking to the press. I could not respond. By the time it became convenient for me to speak, the tempo had died down.
“I decided to simply include it in my 40th birthday memoir to be released in September.”
“There was nothing like projects worth N4.1bn in my constituency in any version of the budget. It was a huge blackmail, which I only later realised was instigated by Speaker Dogara and the three others.”Meanwhile, some members of the House on Wednesday demanded an investigation into the budget padding allegations levelled against the Speaker, Dogara, and three other principal officers.
The others three principal officers are the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun; the Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor.
Jibrin had alleged that the four requested the inclusion of N40bn projects in the 2016 budget.
He claimed that his refusal to oblige the four principal officers and his opposition to several alleged financial infractions were responsible for his removal by Dogara on Wednesday last week.
Also, on Wednesday, some members, operating under the name, Transparency Group, said Jibrin’s allegations must be investigated rather than being dismissed by the principal officers.
The group claimed to have about “100 members”, but only five lawmakers addressed journalists at the National Assembly.
They were Mr. Musa Soba; Mr. Baballe Bashir; Mr. Yahaya Gumel; Mr. Yusuf Bala-Ikara; and Mr. Abubakar Chika.
The TG advised the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, to stop holding brief for the four principal officers as Jibrin’s allegations were not against the entire House, but against the four in their individual capacity.
The Transparency Group, which denied working for Jibrin, explained that the investigation would clean the image of the House.
It added that “external bodies” like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission should conduct the investigations and not the internal machinery of the House.
The spokesman for the group, Soba, argued that an internal organ like the House Committee on Ethics/Privileges, would not be able to do an unfettered job without interference by the speaker.
“The principal officers must come out clean to defend themselves. They have no immunity against investigations,” Soba added.
The group clarified that Jibrin too, who was alleged to have inserted N4.1bn projects into the budget for himself, should be investigated.
One member of the group, Bashir, stated, “Mr. Speaker and the principal officers must come clean. Even Jibrin is not left out.
“There are principal officers, who were not mentioned; they are not left out.
“On the side of the executive, any head of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, who padded the budget, must be investigated too. So, we are not leaving anybody out.”
“We condemn the 2016 budget padding and consider it an abuse of the 1999 Constitution as it relates to Chapter II under the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.”