- As Jibrin tells of How 10 standing committees inserted N284bn projects in budget
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, a well-known ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, was allegedly spotted last Tuesday flying first class on British Airways flight from London to Abuja, in clear violation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive banning public officials from flying first class.
The BA flight BA83 which took off from Gate 43 of Heathrow Terminal 5, London, on Tuesday, nearly an hour behind its scheduled 10.43pm departure time, arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Wednesday morning at about 5a.m, allegedly with Col. Ali on board.The reasons for Mr. Ali’s travel to London remained unknown as at the time of publishing this report, but customs insiders said the trip was official.
Several passengers on the flight told PREMIUM TIMES they saw Mr. Ali seated in the First Class compartment of the aircraft during the flight.“It was a major talking point among some passengers whether the policy (barring public officials from flying first class) is being implemented with exceptions or whether it is meant for the shelves,” one passenger on the flight told this newspaper.
There were notable Nigerians on board and a number of them confirmed to this newspaper that the customs comptroller-general was in the first class cabin of the aircraft during the flight.A first class ticket to and from London costs $11,423.23 (about N3.4million).Besides being a close friend of Mr. Buhari, Mr. Ali, a retired army colonel, is a man seen by many Nigerian as frugal and incorruptible.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the customs spokesperson, Wale Adeniyi, on Thursday, he confirmed Mr. Ali was on the BA flight, but that he travelled on a business class ticket.Mr. Adeniyi was not on the flight, and he responded to our reporter’s enquiry without checking with Mr. Ali.But our sources, some of whom travelled business class, said Mr. Adeniyi’s claim was inaccurate.“That is not true,” one passenger said.
“I was on business class, and I was awake most of the flight. So if you line up those on business class during that flight, I can identify them.”
President Buhari had in April caused the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, to issue a circular to all government agencies barring top officials from travelling first class.The measure was to cut the high cost of travelling by public officials, Mrs. Adeosun said.
The minister said even travels with Business Class tickets remained strictly restricted to only ministers, permanent secretaries, chairmen of Federal Government committees as well as chairmen and chief executives of parastatals and agencies.
That means other categories of government officials, including directors and special assistants, are to travel on economy tickets.Mrs. Adeosun said the measure was part of the recommendations by the Efficiency Unit of her ministry to cut travel expenditure by about 20 per cent.
The recommendations were as a result of the review of the provisions of some extant government circulars on overhead expenses on official travels, the minister said.The review was carried out in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) and the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF).
Administration insiders said the appointment letter issued to Mr. Ali by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation indicated clearly that he could only fly on business class tickets.It however remained unclear Friday how the Ministry of Finance is monitoring and enforcing compliance with the circular on travel expenses by officials.
In the meantime, the embattled former chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin, yesterday, gave a startling revelation on how 10 standing committees allegedly inserted constituency projects worth N284 billion into the 2016 budget without the knowledge of their members. He also alleged that the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, secretly persuaded him to smuggle N20 billion into the budget through Service Wide Vote. Jibrin, who stated this in a statement in Abuja, alleged that some cabals had hijacked the speaker to always do their bidding.
He, however, exonerated the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, and three other principal officers from the alleged scandal now rocking the padding of the 2016 budget by the House leadership, adding that the budget inputs inserted on their names were exclusively carried out by the speaker, his deputy, Yussuff Lasun; Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor. Jibrin said: “I am compelled again for the purpose of emphasis to state categorically that my allegations are against the quartet of speaker, Yakubu Dogara; deputy speaker, Yusuf Lasun; House Whip, Alhassan Doguwa, and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, not the Honourable House as an institution nor other members of the body of principal officers.
“I have to state this very clearly because this quartet has resorted to desperate moves to drag the entire House of Representatives into the case of gross abuse of office I have leveled against them as individual presiding and principal officers of the House. This is a mischievous move to set me on collision with the entire house. “They have also recruited four from the very few members of their cabal to use some elements of the Nigeria police to kidnap, harass, blackmail and intimidate me into silence. Until yesterday, the police were laying siege to my house, blocking the entrance and exit, shouting that they wanted budget documents.
“They embarrassed my entire family with a nursing mother and a seven-month-old baby that cried all night. The game plan was to arrest me and dump me in police net while a heavy media propaganda will be carried out to mislead the world that I have been sacked and police have picked me up as a culprit in 2016 budget. “When ever I am released, an irreparable damage would have been done to my person that will stick for life. “As God Almighty will have it, I had traveled out of town before they could execute their evil plan. God is always with the innocent. The members in the tick of this plot are Jagaba Adams, Jika both chairmen interior and police affairs respectively, Muhammed Bago, Muhammed Zakari and the last one I need not introduce him to Nigerians.
“During the budget period, when they discovered that I was not the kind of person they could use to perpetrate their illegality, Mr Speaker and the three other principal officers took away the entire Appropriation Committee secretariat to a secret location where all sort of insertions were made into the budget. “The blackmail has always been, Abdul people will laugh at you if anything goes wrong between you and Dogara because of the lead role you played and the many toes you stepped on to get him elected. It’s been a painful experience. “Again the secretariat was taken away from me on Speaker Dogara’s instruction for the second time to a location I didn’t know and all sort of insertions into the budget were made and returned to me for signature.
“I said over my dead body! It was a massive crisis behind the scene until the early morning of the Friday that Mr President assented the budget. It was Sen Danjuma Goje that brokered a compromise that since the deputy speaker led the harmonization committee, he should also sign such that the harmonization committee will share responsibility with us. “Senator Goje pleaded with me so hard all night and later shouted heavily at me reminding me that he was not talking to me as a senator but as a father. I cried heavily all night.
“When the budget harmonization committee, headed by Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun, gave out 80% concession across board to the executive demands during the harmonization negotiation, it was agreed that the remaining 20% should go to the entire NASS. The deputy speaker excused himself that he wanted to go and consult with Mr speaker. “He came back after few hours and in an unprecedented display of greed, presented to me a hand written note distributing the remaining 20% to only principal officers. 70% of the 20% was reserved for Mr Speaker and himself, while the remaining 30% of the 20% went to other principal officers. I am sure he will recognize the hand writing when he sees it.”
“Mr Speaker also directed me to create what I advised him will be a controversial line item under service wide vote to introduce about N20 billion projects using the name of NASS. He directed me to see a highly placed PDP politician which I did and collected the documents. I advised him repeatedly against it but he kept pressuring me until I bluntly told him I will not!
“When the Appropriation committee received all the budget reports from standing committees, an analysis was conducted. We discovered that about 10 of the 96 standing committees of the House introduced about 2,000 (two thousand) projects without the knowledge of their committee members, amounting to about N284 billion.’’
“I was alarmed. But I was cautious because at our pre budget meeting with the committee chairmen, I was clearly warned not to touch their budgets. I reported the matter to the speaker. He did nothing about it obviously because he was working behind the scene with the committee chairmen. That was the beginning of the whole budget problem from the side of House and the whole exercise had to go through several versions before it was passed.
“So, is it Abdul that introduced 2000 projects into budget worth 284 billion? But I quietly bore the pain and abuses from all over the country and continue to defend the committee inputs as a show of loyalty to the institution I represent which I so much love and still have many great minds in there. Apart from Chairman Agriculture Hon Mongunu who owned up and explained his inputs at the only executive session I was allowed to attend, the other few chairmen who loaded the budget kept quiet and watched me bashed from every angle by angry Nigerians.’’
Continuing, Jibrin said: “Speaker Dogara has completely derailed, remains clueless, keeps on with an unmatched ego and surely leading the House to the biggest scandal it may ever experience. ‘’He has failed to live above the fog in public duty and private thinking, a direct opposite of what my favorite American Poet, Josiah Gilbet Holland, prayed Lord to grant us leaders.
“All I am asking for is my right to be heard by my colleagues which they denied me. I am calling on my colleagues to plead with Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Lasun, Whip Doguwa and Minority leader Ogor to stop obstructing justice and allow me my right to be heard by the House. ‘’It is the House that will institute a special investigation on this matter to allow me testify and provide evidence before any other external action,” Jibrin said in the statement.
Shipping Position with additional report from Vanguard