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Honourable looting or what? Anxiety grips Lawan’s colleagues

BY OKEY NDIRIBE
With the focus of the nation on the ways and manners of lawmakers there is apprehension that the last may not have been heard in the $3 million alleged cash for clearance bribery scam.

THE $3million bribery scandal rocking the House of Representatives took another dimension last Monday – the first day of the second legislative year- when a group of protesters who claimed to be the conscience of the nation stormed the premises of the National Assembly to protest against corruption in the Legislature.

Rep. Farouk Lawan

Joe Mesele, spokesman for the protesters, which comprised of youths under the umbrella of Nigeria Youths for Good Governance (NYGG) said their mission to the National Assembly was to protest against corruption in the legislative arm of government.

Speaking to newsmen at the premises of the National Assembly, Mesele lambasted legislators for repeatedly getting involved in acts of corruption.

The protesters carried placards with different inscriptions. Some of them read: “We don’t want corruption any more”; “We say no to corruption in the National Assembly”; “No more honourable looting”;  “Nigerian Youths say no to legislative corruption”;  “Let’s sanitise the parliament, the last hope of the masses”.

According to Mesele: “We feel that as responsible and patriotic Nigerians we should come here today to formally make a presentation in the form of a protest to the National Assembly so that the members would know we are watching them keenly and we are not happy about what they are doing”.

Many allegations against Farouk

He reminded members of the House that “It was our protest that gave room for the setting up of the Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy by the House of Representatives.

The work of that Committee was applauded by the people. But now that many allegations have been levelled against Farouk Lawan the Chairman of that Committee, those allegations have to be thoroughly investigated.”

Meanwhile, there are indications that Police investigations into the bribe scandal may have been expanded.

Earlier on, there were media reports that Lawan had named the Chairman of the Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes Committee Hon Adams Jagaba as the principal officer of the House he reported the bribe offer that was allegedly made to him by oil magnate Femi Otedola.  Otedola  had alleged that he gave Lawan $620,000 as the first installment of the $3 million demanded by the legislator.

Otedola has
meanwhile expressed disgust over the decision of the  Green Chamber to relist his company- Zenon  Petroleum and Gas Ltd- among companies indicted for obtaining foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria for the purpose of importing petroleum products but failed to do so.

Although the House at its plenary session last Friday removed Lawan as Chairman of the controversial Ad-hoc Committee and the Education Committee, some watchers of the unfolding scenario believe that the House did not go far enough to mete appropriate sanctions against Lawan.

Those who hold this view suspect that the House’s decision to refer the bribe scandal to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges for further investigation is an attempt to bury the case.

This they insist points to the fact that Lawan is enjoying some kind of protection from some powerful forces in the House

Apart from this, there are also media reports that Otedola who is obviously not impressed with the slow pace of investigations by security agencies is considering the option of approaching a court to request for permission to  present the video and audio evidence he amassed against Lawan to the public.

Last Friday’s session of the House was packed full with members. It was  Hon. Mohammed Bawa who moved a  motion for the removal of Lawan as Chairman of the two committees of the House. The House had also passed a vote of confidence on its leadership. The motion for a vote of confidence was moved by Hon. Samson Osagie, representing Orhiomwhon Federal Constituency in Edo state.

Earlier in his speech,
Tambuwal had cited Order 5 (18)(2) of the Standing Rules of the House  to indicate where he derived his powers to summon the emergency session.

He had intimated members that the object of the session  was to deliberate on grave allegations of bribery brought against Lawan by Mr. Femi Otedola, an oil marketer, in connection with the work of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime empanelled by the House for that purpose.

Matters of national importance

According to him: “In accordance with our Legislative Agenda we must continue to be, not only sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians but also to be proactive on all matters of urgent National importance.”

He continued: “When we elected to pursue the entrenchment of probity, accountability and transparency in the conduct of government business as a cardinal Legislative Agenda we advised ourselves never to expect that it will be an easy task. Accordingly I have had cause to occasionally sound a note of warning and reminder that our constitutional task is inescapably hazardous requiring total commitment, diligence, transparency; determination and sacrifice.

“The Constitution has given the parliament three broad duties which include Law Making, Representation and Oversight. It is interesting to note that of these three, it is that last function, which gives legislature the powers to conduct oversight, that has tended to cause conflict between the legislature and the Executive and remains the most controversial.

Yet, it would have been impossible to conduct the other two functions successfully if the Constitution had not given the parliament oversight powers: the single most potent weapon that  makers of the Constitution put in place to check abuse by those who execute its law.”


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