By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
MEMBERS of the House of Representatives, led by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara,yesterday, asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to hands-off a suit the erstwhile Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Jibrin Abdulmumin lodged against them.
The defendants, while urging the court to decline jurisdiction to hear the matter or grant any interlocutory injunctive reliefs against the House of Reps. described the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2016 as “frivolous and vexatious.”
Jubrin had through his team of lawyers led by Mohammed Abdulhamid and Chukwuma Nwachukwu, told the court that his colleagues were plotting to implicate and make him “a scapegoat” after he revealed how N40billion out of N100bn allocated to the entire National Assembly was diverted.
He told the court that Dogara and three principal officers of the House, surreptitiously padded the 2016 budget with about N40bn.
In an affidavit deposed to by an aide at the House of Reps., Mr. Bashir Bello, the plaintiff, said trouble started after he confronted Dogara with statistics of 2,000 new projects that were injected into the Appropriation Bill by less than 10 Committee members.
He said Dogara and the others had earlier failed to persuade him, as Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, “to admit into the National Budget the sum of about N30billlion.”
Cited as 1st to 14th defendants in the suit were the House of Reps. Clerk of the House, Dogara; Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Lasun; Chief Whip, Alhassan Doguwa; and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor.
Other lawmakers sued by Jubrin included Herman Hembe, Umar Mohammed Bago, Zakari Mohammed, Chike Okafor, Dan Asuquo, Jagaba Adams, Haliru Jika and Uzoma Abonta.
Meanwhile, the defendants, in a preliminary objection they filed through their lawyer, Mr. Kalu Onuoha, queried jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.
They further applied for an order striking out the statement of claim and the entire suit which they said disclosed no reasonable cause of action.
Dogara and his colleagues prayed the court to dismiss the matter for constituting an abuse of the judicial process.
In an 11-paragraphed affidavit deposed to by one Dr. Abel Ochigbo, a Clerk of the House Committee on Appropriation, the defendants, said it would be in the interest for the court to terminate hearing on Jubrin’s suit.
According to them, “The power of appropriation is conferred on the National Assembly as whole and as such no single member, including the plaintiff, is constitutionally vested with the power or authority to decide how much money to admit or which projects to include in the bill of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“That the 2016 Appropriation Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and the National Assembly as mandated by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the standing orders of the House, and was authenticated pursuant to the Acts Authentication Act 2004, and was duly assented to by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in compliance with the Constitution and has therefore become the Appropriation Act 2016.
“That the issue of inflation of the 2016 Budget does not arise as the Appropriation Bill was passed by the House of Representatives pursuant to powers vested in the House by the Constitution and in line with the standing orders of the House and the Bill was duly certified pursuant to the provisions of the Acts Authentication Act before it was duly assented to by President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and it is now being executed as an Act of the National Assembly.”
More so, the defendants told the court that the issue of making Jibrin a scapegoat “does not arise as there was nothing wrong with the Appropriation Bill passe by the House of Representatives and indeed the National Assembly in the course of performing its constitutional functions in accordance with its Standing Orders”.
“There is no controversy over the 2016 Appropriation Act as far as the House of Representatives is concerned as the same is being implemented”, the defendants added.
Meantime, Jubrin, yesterday, withdrew the fundamental right enforcement suit he earlier filed with a view to stopping the House from suspending him from attending plenary sessions.
He had in the suit, also prayed the court to shield him from being arrested or interrogated over allegations he raised against principal members of the House in relation to the N40bn Budget Padding scandal.
He prayed the court for protection, as well as for an order directing the Respondents, jointly and severally, to pay him N500m as aggravated and exemplary damages for violating his rights, and to also publish a written apology to him in two prominent national dailies.
Jibrin told the court that the Respondents, aside denying him the opportunity to substantiate his allegations before other members of the House in plenary, sponsored an invasion of his home where he said a seven-month old baby and a convalescing mother were greatly harassed and humiliated.
His lawyer withdrew the suit, saying it has already been overtaken by events.
Justice John Tsoho has however fixed October 21 to hear the pending suit as well as the defendants’ preliminary objection.