By Luka Binniyat & Tordue Salem
ABUJAâ€”MEMBERS of the House of Representatives under the aegis of Progressives, who had, penultimate Wednesday, asked the Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, to resign or be disgraced through their presentation ofÂ incriminating evidence, made good their threat yesterday, as Bankole refused to throw in the towel .
The Reps want the Speaker to account for about N9billion he allegedly spent in 2008 on cars and miscellaneous items, from contract and procurement documents they handed over to newsmen.
The group regretted that the immediate Speaker before Bankole, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, was removed by the House for a â€˜crimeâ€™ she did not commit.
But, shortly after the Progressives briefed newsmen, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Publicity, Mr. Eseme Eyiboh, also addressed newsmenand called the Progressives â€œlegislative delinquentsâ€, working on a worthless agenda that would not succeed.
Eyiboh said: â€œWhen the House resumes next week, we shall invite them to prove their claims and that is when we shall know the men from the boys.â€
The group, through its spokesman, Mr. Dino Melaye, accused the Speaker of expending over N9 billion between 2009 and 2010, without a convincing breakdown on how the money was expended.
Melaye said: â€œThe House received N11 billion for 2008 and 2009 and expended N9billion. A majority of House members have no clue on details of the expenditure purportedly made from this colossal sum. The Speaker authorised a spurious, vexatious and reckless expenditure profile at a time when there is so much economic hardship, massive unemployment and neglected infrastructure in the country.â€
He added: â€œOn May 28, 2008, the Speaker and the Body of Principal Officers approved the purchase of four units of Range Rover (V8) Jeeps, three units of Mercedes Benz S-600 cars for the use of the Speaker and his Deputy costing N335, 500, 000.â€
Purchases for members
The group also accused the Speaker of approving the purchase of LCD 40 Samsung LNS 341 for the members at N525,000 per unit, but stressed that â€œthe market price for this product is about N180,000â€
Melaye said: â€œIf you mark-up this sum by 25 per cent as allowed by the Bureau for Public Procurement and include 10 per cent for tax and VAT, the unit price for the said television sets would be N243, 000. The Speaker authorised the purchase of 400 units for N210 million.
â€œBy this action, the Speaker, has occasioned a loss of the value of N112.8 million by the national treasury.â€
The lawmakers also took the Speaker up on the alleged inflation in the purchase of â€œone unit of Sharp Copier 5316 for N270, 000, when the open market price is N160, 000â€, stating that â€œif you add 35 per cent being the allowed mark-up by BPP as well as tax and VAT, the unit price would come to N216,000.
â€œWhereas 400 units of the said copier were purchased for N108 million on the approval of the Speaker instead of N86.4 million. Again, the National Treasury suffered a loss of N21.6 million. As usual, there was no bidding done before the said purchase of copiers, and sundry others.â€
The group said the purchases violated section 15(1) (a) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007, which provides that â€œThe provisions of this Act shall apply to all procurement of goods, works and services carried out by the Federal Government of Nigeria and all procurement entities.â€
The lawmakers regretted that the first female Speaker of the Federal Legislature, Mrs. Patricia Etteh was ridiculed for approving less than a quarter of what Bankole approved, adding: â€œIt must be pointed out that former Speaker, Patricia Etteh, only earmarked about N23 million to purchase cars and she was publicly lampooned. We consider the amount of money expended on about six or seven cars as outrageous and should be condemned.â€
Reacting, Eyiboh said: â€œThese people should be ignored. They areÂ Â just legislative delinquents who have decided to create for themselves a worthless agenda that would not work
â€œThey want to make the House look as if it lacks legislative sensitivity. They have just served you tissues of lies and scripts, knowing full well that the award of contracts is neither the responsibility of the Speaker, nor that of the House.
â€œThe responsibility of the award of contract falls with the management of the National Assembly. They ought to know that as members of the National Assembly, they have the constitutional power of oversight.
That means that they could have invited the Clerk of the National Assembly and other officers to find out. The National Assembly is also an arm of government, just like the MDAs.
â€œInstead of going to the press, they could have proceeded to any of the anti-graft bodies. When we resume, they would be invited to verify their claims on the floor, then you would see the difference between the boys and the men.â€