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Endless corruption scandals:Burden of lawmakers

As the fourth republic enters its threshold, some privileged politicians appear to indulge in sharp practices with imperial arrogance. CHARLES ADINGUPU  chronicles the scandals spreading like wild fire at both the Upper and Lower legislative arms of government.

Since the enthronement of the Fourth Republic, the National Assembly and the legislative arm of government have been enmeshed in one crisis or another.

Unfortunately, these scandals and crises at the National Assembly have often been jettisoned as the reflection of the learning process by politicians. But a good teacher must be worried if after thirteen years of drilling, his student is still fixated on the elementary rudiment of grappling  with ABCD.

In the Senate, Late Evans Enwerem and his fellow compatriot, late Chuba Okadigbo both erstwhile Senate President were enmeshed in furniture scam just as Adolphus Wabara was swept off over his alleged involvement inn the money-for-budget scandal.

However, if the senators are not fighting for contracts, their colleagues in the House of Representative are exchanging blows over committee membership and over mundane issues.

From those trying times, nothing seems to have changed. Shortly after he emerged as the speaker of the house, Alhaji Salisu Buhari was accused of pejuri, Buhari who claimed to have obtained a degree certificate from the University of Toronto in Canada was subsequently booted out of office for falsification of his age and educational qualification. In a similar vein, the House of Representative members have forced the Speaker, Patricia Etteh and her deputy, Babangida Nguroje  to resign on the basis of allegations  arising from contract award on the renovation of official quarters.

The cacophony that ensued  thereafter, made it difficult to decipher the truth, which is that some colossal amount of money had been paid for the contract and nobody seemed to have benefitted from the award of contract.

Etteh and her deputy who become the sacrificial lamb were so treated by some political gangsters in and outside the House, who for some personal reasons did not like the man who influenced the selection of Etteh as Speaker. Though, the Etteh gate was a major irritant in the management of Nigeria. She was named in a N628 million contract scam but did not see the indignity of her action. Besides, contrary to public opinion requesting her to resign as Speaker of the House of Representative, she was wrapped up the more in the glory of being a beautician until she was subsequently forced to resign under threats of impeachment.

However, those believed to be unhappy in the way and manner Etteh was removed laid siege for her successor, Dimeji Bankole fervently waiting for him to make a slip.

It was against this backdrop the trading of allegations started  between the leadership of the House and a group which metamorphosed as the progressive led by Honourable Dino Melaye. The group cried foul over the contract for the purchase of cars for members by the leadership of the House.

Additionally, the group also demanded that the House leadership should account for N9 billion capital fund expenditure between 2008 and 2009. They, however, claimed that the Speaker, Bankole authorised a “vexatious and reckless” expenditure profile.

Upon his exit from the House of Representative, Bankole was hand picked by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). His travails at the court of law have become history. The Ndudi Elumelu’s power probe committee remains one scandal that cannot be easily expunged from the book of Nigeria’s political history. The conclusion of the Elumelu’s investigation over his alleged involvement in bribery scam are still very hazy. Today, Honourable Elumelu walks the streets as a freeman.

Just when Nigerians are beginning to push those experiences behind them, Honourable Herman Hembe, Chairman, Adhoc Committee on the Capital Market was embroiled in a fresh bribery scandal raised by the Director-General, Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Ms Arunma Oteh.

The DG SEC accused the committee chairman of asking for gratification to enable him influence his probe into the activities and operations of the capital market.

Consequent upon this allegation, Hembe agreed to stop aside and personally surrender himself to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order to allow for proper investigation into the allegations.

While the fire rages on, the House of representatives reportedly accused the EFCC of bias over the arraignment of the chairman, House Committee on capital market. The anger of the leadership of the House was based on the fact that Oteh must have used her connection as a statutory member of the EFCC to ensure Hembe was embarrassed.

The House Deputy spokesman, Honourable Victor Ogene argued that the EFCC knew that the capital market probe was on-going. Yet, the commission went ahead to arraign the chairman and his deputy.

“How on earth can you make available travel documents and estacode on October 19 and expect the person to travel the same day,” he said, “it’s unfortunate that the ethics and privileges committee mandated to investigate the matter was still waiting for the probe to end when Hembe was arraigned.”

Honourable Ogene lamented that the trials of Hembe is being based on Section 308, assuring that nothing tangible will come out of it since other arms of government would be allowed to perfect whatever they are doing with regards to the matter.

However while this dust is yet to settle, the chairman, Adhoc Committee on Petroleum and Subsidy, Honourable Farouk Lawan was again during the week accused of requesting and accepting bribe to the whooping tune of $620,000 by the Chairman, Zenon Oil and Gas, Mr. Femi Otedola.

The Farouk’s committee which began work shortly after its inauguration drilled oil markets for  unending hours concluded the assignment in April 24 and placed a 240 page report before the entire House of Representatives for its considerations. After two days debate, some amendments were made and the report was approved.

But by June 9, the bubble burst when oil magnate, Femi Otedola claimed that Farouk Lawan demanded bribe  from him to remove his company name from the list of those indicted by the panel report.

The business mogul alleged that Honourable Farouk received 620,000 being part payment of N3 million dollars requested by Farouk and his committee members. Reacting the accusation, Farouk initially said Otedola lied, but later admitted that he only collected the sum of 500 million dollars only as a ploy to expose Femi Otedola shoddy deals.

As the political scheme to push Farouk out of the House, it might be too early to stoke the fire while the mantle is still on. But whichever way pendulum swings, it has become expedient for the lawmakers to salvage their already battered integrity.

 


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