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Bankole vs ‘Progressives’: Fierce battle ahead

Quickly, 11 members constituted themselves into the group now called the Progressive Minded People (PML). It is meant to achieve only one mission: to expose…

Quickly, 11 members constituted themselves into the group now called the Progressive Minded People (PML). It is meant to achieve only one mission: to expose what they called crass financial recklessness, abuse of office and corruption on the part of the leadership of Speaker Bankole.

The PML addressed a press conference during  which they gave Bankole a one-week ultimatum to resign as Speaker or they will expose all his misdeeds.

The group stated, “The public perception of the House has ingloriously declined. We used to be the pacesetters of legislative practice in this country, but it is obvious that we have been overtaken because of the ineptitude of leadership. Because of all these negative manifestations the Reps under Bankole, has nose-dived and has lost its positive reputation. We hereby call on Bankole to resign as the Speaker within seven days.”

Expectedly however, a day later, Minority Leader Mohammed Ali Ndume (ANPP, Borno) reacted  and threatened that the leadership was ready to wield its big stick at deviant members which it has hitherto tolerated out of goodwill.

Similarly, House official spokesman Rep. Eseme Eyiboh (PDP, Akwa Ibom)  described the move by the progressives as “ misleading with their proverbial ostrich display of selfish tendencies in the guise of public interest.”

Bankole himself came out to deny the allegations when he said, “ I am  not rattled by threats of release of any  document. The documents being referred to are already in the custody of the EFCC, ICPC ,  SSS  and even the Presidency. What most of my colleagues do not know is that I had personally invited the EFCC  to investigate some of the documents they now want to use  in blackmailing me. What they are doing to me is part of occupational hazards and challenges which any leader must be prepared to face. Once I  became Speaker, I have been conscious enough to avoid soiling my  hands in financial matters. Despite the denting of  my image by their allegation, I would not begrudge any member of the Progressives who are  my personal friends.”

As promised, the PML  brought a Ghana-Must-Go full of the ‘incriminating documents’ and handed it over to newsmen at the National Assembly on Wednesday. However, a mini drama ensued as the designated press conference room No. 019 in the House could not be accessed by Journalists and the PML members. The locks had been changed, thereby compelling the PML to address the newsmen at the lobby of the House’s New Building. Everybody had to stand as there were seats there. But Rep. Eyibo later apologized, saying that some maintenance exercises were being carried out by the Sergeant-At-Arms.

The PML accused the Speaker of misappropriating the sum of N9 billion naira capital votes allocated to the lower legislative chamber in the 2008 and 2009 budgets, saying, “The House received a total sum of N11billion for 2008 and 2009  for capital projects and expended the total sum of N9 billion. Majority of House members have no clue on the details of the expenditure purportedly made from this colossal sum. The Hon. Speaker authorized 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. Let us now illustrate the unacceptable expenditure profile authorized by the Hon. Speaker by giving a few examples”

Details of the documents released by the PML indicates that  the body of principal officers of the House headed by Bankole had in a meeting held on 11th June, 2008 approved the purchase of  400 units of Samsung LCD 40”  television sets for the sum of N525,000 per unit where as the open market price was N180,000 naira.

Also in another contract award letter with reference number NASS/2515/T dated June 11, 2008, addressed to M/S First Impressions Co. Ltd titled “Award of contract for  the supply of Desktop computer sets (HP Model) to the House of Representatives singed by one  Kabiru Suleiman of the Legislative Budget and Planning Department for the Clerk to the National Assembly, reads in part, “I am pleased to inform you that the Body of Principal Officers, House of Representatives, at its meeting on the 28th of May, 2008 approved for your company the supply of 150 No. of Desktop computer sets.”

Another firm, Wadautu Global Company, was awarded three different contracts for the supply of two Range Rover vehicles for the convoy of the Speaker and his Deputy at the sum of N140 million naira, another contract for the supply of one Range Rover  special as part of the Speaker’s convoy in Lagos,  another Range Rover V8 for the House Leader at the sum of N62.7 million naira, and another contract for the supply of three Mercedes Benz Treated S-600 each at the sum of N52.8 million naira, all on 30th June, 2008.

Similarly, the Principal officers, according to Dino and his colleagues, had in a meeting held on 11th June, 2009, approved the purchase of  400 units of Sharp Copier 5316 for N270,000  per unit, when the open market price is N160,000 naira.

Another allegation against the Speaker is the purchase of 800 units of Desktop HP Compaq dc5700, at the cost of N330,000 per unit while the open market price is N160,000 naira and a mark-up of 35 percent as allowed by Bureau for Public Procumbent (BPP) will bring the price to N216,000 naira, leading to the loss of N91 million naira by the national treasury; in addition to the approval for 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 in the sum of  N336 million naira.

The group said, “Since he became Speaker, he has always been buying us things, including torch light. What will a lawmaker do with a torch light? Are we security men?  

According to the  ‘Pogressives’, there “is a brazen violation of section 15, 1a  and 58 of the Public Procurement Act (2007), as there was  none of the contracts  awarded by the Speaker complied with the provisions of section 16 and 25 of the Act as they were neither competitive nor  advertised on the website and national dailies. The contracts were not subjected to due process to warrant issuance of certificate of no objection by the BPP”

Eyibo again denied the allegations, saying that the Principal Officers led by Bankole do not award contracts as that is the duty of the National Assembly management under the leadership of the Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA). He described the dissenting group as a ‘clan of legislators who are looking for schedules of responsibilities since they don’t have one.’

The Speaker, as alleged by the Progressives, embarked on reckless spending and contract inflation which defrauded the national treasury to the tune of hundreds of millions of naira. They argued that if Vincent Ogbulafor was forced to resign as the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over allegation of N100 million naira, then Bankole too should take the path of honour or be disgraced out of office.

There may indeed be a fierce battle in the House as members reconvene on Tuesday. A member who returned to the House the third time in 2007, West Idahosa (PDP, Edo), hinted this when he said, “We will rather die than lose our courage to speak the truth.”

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