Former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin has distanced himself from allegations of arm-twisting and bribery levelled against members of the National Assembly’s Appropriation and Finance Committees by former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Jibrin, representing Kiru-Bebeji Federal Constituency, made this known in a statement sent to The Herald Nigeria on Sunday.
Okonjo-Iweala had alleged in her book Fighting Corruption is Dangerous:The Story Behind the Headlines that the Goodluck Jonathan administration parted with N17 billion to finance the re-election bid of key members of the National Assembly before the 2015 budget was passed.
She said, “By the time we presented the budget on December 16, 2014, oil prices had fallen further to $58 per barrel.
“We were prepared and we knew we had to trigger the additional expenditure and revenue measures in 2015 to make the budget work.
“This would be tough, given that we had entered an election year.
”Indeed, legislators initially refused to accept any cuts to their regular N150 billion budget, despite dwindling revenues.
“But eventually, they agreed to a 13 per cent cut against a backdrop of ministers accepting a voluntary 50 per cent cut to their basic salaries.
“In a tough session with the National Assembly’s ad hoc committee on the budget (made up of chairs of the Finance Committee and Appropriation Committee of both chambers and other leaders of the National Assembly), an additional N20 billion was re-introduced as election expenses for National Assembly members.
“We insisted the amount be dropped because it nullified the 13 per cent cut made to their statutory budget, but managed to reduce the N20 billion figure by only N3 billion to N17 billion.
“This became the price to pay to have the 2015 budget passed.”
Jibrin was the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance during the period referred to by Okonjo-Iweala.
However, he has come out to distance himself from the bribery, daring the minister to come forward with any information to prove otherwise.
Jibrin also challenged anti-graft agencies in the country to wade in to investigate the “serious” allegations made by Okonjo-Iweala against the National Assembly.
He said, “My attention has been drawn to media reports from extract of a book- Fighting corruption is dangerous- written by former Finance Minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala where in she stated that in a tough session with National Assembly’s ad-hoc committee on budget ( Made up of chairs of Finance and Appropriation Committee of both chambers and other leaders of National Assembly), 17 billion naira was forced into the budget for election expenses for members of NASS.
“As Chairman House Committee on Finance during the period in question, I wish to state as follows:
“1- I was NEVER part of a meeting where such decision was made. I am not aware of any 17billion naira introduced in the 2015 budget for election expenses for members of NASS. I did not benefit in any way or form from such a money if at all it ever existed.
“2- It is absolutely unfair for the former Minister of finance to make such grievous allegation in a blanket manner. She should have named those that participated at the said meeting and received the money. That will be a higher service to the country and will aide investigation and help establish culpability
“3- Budget is not rocket science, the former Finance Minister with her huge institutional memory, documents at her disposal and massive contacts can identify and state specifically where the money was inserted in the budget and how it was implemented in favour of the alleged beneficiaries
“4-In all my interactions (including budget matters), oversight and sometimes confrontation with the former Minister of finance, it always centered on issues particularly on the MTEF and economy and most of our activities, engagements and discuss are in the public glare.
“5- The toughest of such issue based interaction for me was 2013 MTEF. In one of such meetings at the villa, there was an out burst between myself and the former finance Minister on issues concerning the MTEF. President Jonathan interrupted my presentation, backed his minister and took time to dress me down to the surprise of the NASS delegation. I apologized to him and proceeded with my presentation as if nothing happened. I got a well done tap on my shoulder from President Jonathan after the meeting.
“6- I am by this statement putting up myself before all the anti graft agencies to investigate me and established if I am part of that decision or benefited from its outcome or proceed. We should not take allegations of corruption lightly as such, when allegations of corruption are raised, it must be dealt with decisively.”