Budget Padding: Dogara, Others Innocent Until Proven Guilty – Gbajabiamila

Femi-GbajabiamilaLeader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Monday urged his colleagues and indeed, all Nigerians, not to judge Speaker Yakubu Dogara and three other principal officers fingered in the 2016 budget padding scandal rocking the House.

He made the call in a statement to his colleagues made available to National Assembly correspondents.

“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”, Gbajabiamila, who was not mentioned in the scandal by the accuser, sacked Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin, said.

The House leader also dismissed speculations that he is working against Dogara, following his curious silence in the face of the allegations against the Speaker and other principal officers, excluding him (Gbajabiamila).

A text message making the rounds amongst members of the House alleged that Gbajabiamila was working in concert with Jibrin unseat Dogara, but the Leader insisted that the allegation is far from the truth.

“Since the budget controversy that engulfed the House about a week ago, I have pointedly maintained a dignified silence”, he explained. “I did this for the sake of the institution I represent and which I have labored hard to grow and protect, knowing that whatever I say could be impactful both within the House and outside it”.

He further stated: “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.

“Unfortunately, the controversy has now taken a different turn following the rather strange if not comical text making the rounds amongst members about my complicity in this rather sordid matter. 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 bi-partisan manner and in the interest of the institution and the country.

“This text message, which desperately seeks to finger me in some macabre plot to destabilize the House is a throw-back 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”.

Mr. Gbajabiamila, however, agreed that the budget process needs to be reformed:

“On the budget issue at hand, it is clear that our budget process needs radical reform and very quickly too”, he said.