Budget Padding: Court declines to hear Jibrin’s suit

 

The Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday declined to hear the fundamental rights enforcement suit erstwhile Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Jibrin Abdulmumin, lodge before it.

Jibrin had approached the court, begging it to shield him from being arrested or interrogated over his allegation that speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, and three other lawmakers, surreptitiously padded the 2016 budget with about N40 billion. The plaintiff, 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 N40 billion of N100 billion allocated to the entire National Assembly was diverted. 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 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”. Aside the Speaker and his Deputy, Hon. Yusuf Lasun, other Reps members cited as 6th and 7th Respondents in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/539/2016, were the Chief Whip, Alhassan Doguwa and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor. While the Nigeria Police, the Inspector General, the Commissioner of Police for the Federal Capital Territory and the Attorney-General of the Federation, were listed as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 8th Respondents, respectively. Meanwhile, when the matter came up yesterday, trial Justice Okon Abang who is currently sitting  as a vacation judge, refused to hear the suit. The judge stressed that Jibrin ought to have obtained leave that would enable the court hear his matter during vacation. Justice Abang said:  “A matter filed during court vacation is not heard as a matter of cause.  The applicant is expected to apply and obtain the leave of court to have his matter herd during the court vacation, in line with the provisions of Order 46 Rule 5 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2009. I so hold. “This applicant did not do so. I do not have jurisdiction to even grant an adjournment of this suit. “It is expected that the applicant will do the needful to comply with the provisions of the rules of this court.” Besides praying the court for protection, Jibrin had equally sought 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. He 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.

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