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House of Reps: A score card of scandals

BY EMMAN OVUAKPORIE

THE sixth National Assembly especially the House of Representatives, would go in history as the most scandalous in Nigeria going by all the avoidable crises that rocked it in the last four years.

The then Speaker, Mrs Patricia Etteh was barely three months old in office  when the civilian coup properly hatched  by the vibrant young Reps, threw her off balance and the young Dimeji Sabur Bankole emerged to further help plummet the House into an abyss of scandals.

But that coup equally claimed the life of a member, who died during the war which toppled Etteh, who till date no concrete evidence has been linked to the plethora of allegations leveled against her.

The reign of Bankole started with Nigerians praying for the new Gen.Yakubu Gowon of our time, he was seen as young, energetic and capable of steering the House to higher grounds.

The avalanche of scandals that followed made whatever that transpired in the other assemblies a child’s play as allegations ranging from money laundering to outright embezzlement became associated with the House.

*Dimeji Bankole

The first major problem the house had was the car scam that rocked it and it was eventually extinguished with all manners of fire brigade methods including threat to beat up the lawyer that brought the scam to public glare.

While Nigerians still hoped that the car issue could have been a mistake, another monstrous scandal appeared from nowhere and 11 members were beaten and subsequently suspended for opening their mouths too wide.

For daring to send a petition against the House leadership to an anti-graft body, was seen as a taboo and the 11 members had to languish even when a competent court had given judgement that they were ill-treated, they were barred from the transactions of the sixth assembly and denied their allowances.

Barely two months to the end of the assembly, another scam bordering the obtaining of loan without due process mounted the rostrum of the sixth assembly and hell was let loose, who did this to us they screamed.

Members threatened to impeach the Speaker weeks to the end of his regime to prove to him that his refusal to carry them along was dangerous and he has to pay for it.

This became an empty threat as soon as the young Speaker held a closed door session with his colleagues; all wagging tongues became that of dumb.

It is also a common knowledge that of the 360 members only 50 are truly effective, while others were mere onlookers who came to look at the beautiful street lights in Abuja and enjoy the good things the Federal Capital Territory has to offer.

Despite all these knocks, the House surprised Nigerians when last Tuesday, it declared that it had worked on 481 bills in the last four years.

Briefing journalists on the bills, Ita Enang, Chairman House Committee on Rules and Business said, “as at the close of legislative business, a total 481 bills were introduced from June, 5th 2007 to 19th May 2011.

These include bills either passed, withdrawn, negative, read the second time and yet to be reported out of the committee of the Whole, out of this number a total of 145 bills were passed between 5th June, 2007 to 19th May 2007 and these do not include Senate bills that we will be adopting special procedure to consider and pass.”

He gave the highlights of the current National Assembly as the amendment of of the 1999 Constitution and the repeal  and the re-enactment of the Electoral Act 2010 which gave credibility to the just concluded  general elections adjudged the most credible since the coming of civilian rule in Nigeria.

He further explained that the assembly achieved another feat in the confirmation of the appointment of Vice President Namadi Sambo and the House equally passed all the FSS 2020 bills, Financial System Strategy.

If really only 50 members of the sixth assembly were vibrant while others were bus conductors or better still ‘agberos’ for the past four years then the House deserves a pat on the back for doing a good job but the scandals almost rocked the boat of the Dimeji Bankole led House.

As for the incoming seventh assembly, there are lot of booby traps they must try as much as possible to avoid or they may have similar tales to relate to their families as some of the present legislators have even to professional beggars while some eat in bukas.

A Rep was said to have told his colleagues at a closed door session that if his severance fee was not paid, they should arrange and give his children money for his burial because he lost everything in the last April election.

Former PDP chairman, Chief Audu Ogbe warned the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, legislators the way they trade their votes because  experience of all his colleagues in the House in 1979, only two of them could still boast of owning a car while some had died.

As the newly elected members  resume sitting they should learn one or two things from the out-going assembly.


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