On December 18, 2013, the Chairman of the House Representative Committee on Finance, Mr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, hired me to come up with some 50 questions the House Committee on Finance wanted to slam on the then Coordinating Minister of the Economy and the Minister of Finance, Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to prove to the world that she has been mismanaging the country’s economy.
As a well-known critic of the Ms Okonjo-Iweala, Mr Jibrin told me that after the committee’s long deliberations, they decided that there was no one better than I to come up with these 50 questions covering all sectors of the country’s economy.
Notwithstanding his flattering, I insisted that for me to come up with these 50 questions within the shortest period of time, and the fact that the 50 questions should reflect all sectors of the economy, I have to be paid the sum of N100 million. With Mr Jibrin and I agreeing on my fee to be N100 million, I quickly went to work, suspending all my engagements, including an important meeting with some foreign diplomats.
As if not enough, three months later when Ms Okonjo-Iweala submitted her response to the 50 questions, Mr. Jibrin calling from Switzerland, insisted that since I came up with the 50 questions, he was further hiring me to react to her response. He went further to inform me in advance that as soon as he returned to Nigeria, he would call for a public hearing with my reaction to her response to the 50 questions forming the basis for the would be well publicized public hearing.
In fact, he told me that the goal was to humiliate this so-called Coordinating Minister of the Economy. While I had no disagreement with whatever his committee intended to achieve, I had to let him know that that too should be paid for. After long argument, he agreed on N15 million as my fee to react to her response, bringing the total agreed consulting fee to N115 million. As he bragged on the phone, a public hearing by the House Committee on Finance was scheduled in March 2014.
But to my great shock, the public hearing which I was invited as a major resource person along with other Nigerians was suddenly called off two days to the day of the hearing. And to my greatest dismay, I only read the announcement on the pages of some national newspapers. I was not happy that I was not informed by Mr Jibrin who had always called me, including sometimes three times a day. I was not happy because I had to cancel a foreign trip and had to travel and return the same day from Lagos since Mr Jibrin needed me to hold a meeting with his committee to discuss the modality of posing the questions to her. While reading it, I quickly called Mr Jibrin, but he didn’t pick.
The shocker of my life came when after several trials to talk to Mr. Jibrin to ascertain the authenticity of what I was reading in the newspapers, he finally picked my call with response, “why must you be informed?” His tone on the phone, almost made me lose breath. But calmly I thanked him and told him that maybe he wasn’t in his best mood. Since then on he never picked my calls.
I became worried. When eventually I got him on the phone, I politely requested for an urgent meeting with him regarding my consulting fees. But he quickly asked what consulting fees should we be meeting for? I responded by reminding him that it was about my consulting fees for the 50 questions. But while I was asking him when and where he would like us to meet, he hung the phone on me. He called later to give me a date and time to come over to his private office in Ministers Hill, but made it clear to me that he did not know what fees I was talking about. Calmly, I accepted his proposed date and time for the meeting.
At the meeting he openly but arrogantly told me that as smart as I thought I was, including having an MIT education, that I was a fool who could be easily used and dumped. To quickly drive this home, he asked me to produce any form of written agreement or contract to show that I did the 50 questions not to mention agreement to be paid N115 million consulting fees. I appealed to him to recognize the work I did which I did believing in his being an honorable member of the House of Reps. Laughingly, he told me the meeting was over and that I should never ever contact him on my so-called consulting fees. I quietly left his office.
While leaving his office, I told him that maybe he needed some time to recall our meetings and phone calls where he hired me and assured me that as an honorable member of the House of Representatives his word should be his bond. I went further to tell him that he should better start putting the money together because nothing would make me not to demand to be fully paid my fees, whether we signed an agreement or not; and that agreements either in writing or oral are legally binding. As if I knew he would negate on this oral agreement, to safeguard my intellectual property, I introduced five questions into the 50 questions from my previous newspaper articles.
When every effort to have the house to pay me or agree on when to pay me fall through, I discovered that I had no other option but to write the Speaker a letter which I copied the committee chairman demanding for my payment and inserting the five question along with the pages of the newspapers were they were lifted verbatim. Once he got my copy, Mr. Jibrin who had been avoiding my calls, called me late that day, which I asked my assistant to pick and hear him out.
He rained on me with insults and as God could have it, he sent series of blackmailing SMS, telling me that his lawyers would soon descend on me for trying to extort money from him as a member of the House of Representatives. But when I threatened him with plagiarism, as luck would have it, his text message response was, “you are sick for plagiarizing yourself.” In other words, he has officially told me that in fact, I have a case against him, the speaker and the House.
Efforts were made by me and my lawyers to meet with the speaker on this matter. Eventually through a powerful clergyman, an agreement was reached for a meeting with the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal who called me and confessed never to be aware of the case. I reminded him of a copy of my letter that was sent to him, which he denied seeing. He promised a meeting in his residence and gave me his media assistant’s number Mr. Imam Imam. On the day of the meeting, every effort to reach both the speaker and his media assistant, failed.
In the meantime, my lawyer during his investigation of who was the House of Representative’s lawyer in this case, came to know that it one of the country’s foremost lawyers. When a meeting with the powerful SAN eventually took place, I was shocked by how much the SAN knew about the case, and in his usual humorous way, told me that as a human rights lawyer, he would do everything within his power to make sure that the case was settled out of court and that I am fully paid for the job well-done, a job that the whole House was proud of for having embarrassed Okonjo-Iweala on her poor handling of the country’s economy.
But every effort by Falana to organize a meeting with the speaker, who he told me was readily willing to settle the issue, never materialized. As a result, my lawyers had no option but to sue Mr. Jibrin, Mr Tambuwal, and the House of Reps. Understandably, it was a time everyone, including the speaker was fighting for their political life because the powerful PDP was determined to render the speaker a political orphan for having used the party to become the speaker and now dumping the party to join the newly formed APC.
Given the nonchalance attitude exhibited and the colossal abuse of office by both the Speaker and the Committee Chairman all these months, I finally decided it is high time I sought a redress in the Court of law; hence the lawsuit no. CV/890/14 instituted at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on December 23, 2014. What still baffles me to date is why the well-publicised March 2014 public hearing was called off? It was so unbelievable that after the 120 paged reactions to the Okonjo-Iweala’s response to my earlier 50 questions the whole was just suddenly called off without any form of explanation. Could one be left to wonder if some kind of “settlement” took place?
I am yet to recover from my encounter with this serial blackmailer and liar, who calls himself an honorable member of the House of Representatives. It is unbelievably how people like Jibrin could have made it to the country’s House of Representatives. I am not surprised that he has been sacked from being the House Committee Chairman on Appropriation. I am equally not surprised to read his ongoing effort to blackmail the leadership of the House, after all that is his specialty.
I think that the people of Kano should do this country a great favor if they should recall this dishonourable man, so that he stops using his constituency as the platform to terrorize the country. Also, let me use this opportunity to invite EFCC and DSS to fully and thoroughly investigate this man’s enormous wealth, his bank accounts including how he made the money he used in buying his numerous latest luxury cars; his expensive properties in Ministers Hill, Maitama where he locates his private office and his expansive and expensive Wuse 2 residence.
Here is a man who as the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance was alleged to be extorting billions of naira from ministry, departments, and agencies of government under his committee, and those refusing to play along were threatened with a public hearing with the goal of blackmailing them. Thank God for President Buhari, the era of using budget padding to steal billions from our commonwealth by people like Mr. Jibrin is fast becoming a thing of the past.
*Enwegbara, a development economist and Chairman/CEO Pan Africa Development Corporate Company can be reached at email@example.com or 07038501486