By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Emman Ovuakporie & Johnbosco Agbakwu
ABUJA— As investigation into allegations that Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and four other principal officers injected projects worth N281 billion into the 2016 budget continues, indications have emerged that President Muhammadu Buhari is unwilling to assist the suspects from being prosecuted.
This came as it emerged that 262 members of the House have backed the signature drive in solidarity with the speaker. Besides, northern youths, under the aegis of Northern Youths Integrity Forum, NYIF, have written the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, calling for the arrest and prosecution of former chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, over his role in the controversy surrounding alleged padding of 2016 budget.
However, in the heat of the controversy and summons from a special probe panel raised by the Inspector-General of Police, Dogara, last weekend, met Buhari but Presidency sources confirmed to Vanguard last night that Buhari was non-committal.
A senior aide of Buhari, who is privy to what transpired at the meeting, said the President did not offer to help the embattled speaker but asked him to cooperate with the probe panel so as to prove his innocence and clear his name.
The aide, who pleaded anonymity, said it was not in the character of the President to interfere with any criminal investigation in line with his anti-corruption posture and would, therefore, not offer any form of assistance to anyone undergoing investigation or trial over graft.
“This is not about Dogara or anyone in particular. This President will not intercede to stop the investigation or trial of anyone,” the presidential aide said.
The refusal of the President to intervene has opened the prospect of a criminal indictment and prosecution should the Modu Ali probe panel establishes sufficient evidence of budget padding against them.
No one’ll be spared —AGF
The development comes as the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, awaits the outcome of the police report so as to press criminal charges against those found to have padded the budget both in the National Assembly and in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.
The minister confirmed to Vanguard last night that his office would not hesitate to file charges against anyone found to have committed budget fraud against the interest of the nation.
Malami said the report of the police probe would be ready in a matter of weeks and that necessary steps would be taken to deal with the situation in the interest of justice.
The minister said: “We will investigate the executive and legislative conspiracy as it relates to the constituency projects, with a view to measuring the act of execution of the padded projects over the years and in so doing, learn a lesson therefrom in the budget and its implementation as a law with an aim to prosecute infractions and block leakages inherent in the padding process.”
262 members back Dogara
Dogara has come under intense scrutiny and pressure to quit or defend his name based on allegations by the sacked chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdul-mumin Jibrin, that he and four other principal officers of the House were involved in budget padding.
But Dogara has fought back, mobilising majority of his loyalists in the legislature to append their signatures in his support to stave off imminent removal and replacement.
He is reported to have so far secured the signatures of no fewer than 262 of the 360-member legislature.
The 262, according to sources, have already signed a register opened by Dogara to keep track of those backing him. The signature drive is being collated across the six geopolitical zones on a state by state basis with support for Dogara said to be very strong in five zones with the Southwest being the exception.
Dogara and his co-accused are expected to appear before the police team this week. Their accuser, Abdumumuni Jibrin, has already met with the panel and submitted documents to the team.
Northern youths call for prosecution of Jibrin
Meanwhile, Northern Youths Integrity Forum, NYIF, has written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, calling for the arrest and prosecution of Jibrin, over his role in the controversy surrounding alleged padding of 2016 budget.
In the letter to the Chairman of EFCC, the group said it would be willing to provide evidence of wrongdoing by Jibrin, if invited to do so.
The letter, signed by the NYIF Coordinator, Kabiru Amadu, further stated that members of the group strongly believed in kindness, transparency, commitment and the leadership of Dogara, claiming that the speaker had never been involved in any corruption cases or convicted by any court of law.