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Tuesday is ‘judgement day’ for House of misappropriation

Two other principal officers, Rep Tunde Akogun (PDP, Edo State), and Baba Shehu Agaie (PDP, Niger State) House leader and Deputy House leader respectively, are…

Two other principal officers, Rep Tunde Akogun (PDP, Edo State), and Baba Shehu Agaie (PDP, Niger State) House leader and Deputy House leader respectively, are now on the spotlight.

House leader, Tunde Akogun was alleged to have mismanaged part of the N160 million given him to organize the recently-concluded retreat of the House at two centers in Uyo and Kano.

Shehu Baba Agaie, deputy leader, was alleged to have misappropriated the N130 million advanced him by the House to host the Afro-Arab Parliamentary Conference in April. The Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) allegedly paid for the delegates’ accommodation and feeding.

The fire that seeks to consume the principal officers in the House of Representatives started in Kano the penultimate week where the MPs went for a retreat. Another  retreat was held simultaneously in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.

The demand by the aggrieved MPs, led by Rep Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi State), was a ‘vote of no confidence’ on Emeka Ihedioha, a journalist cum politician, following an allegation that he had misappropriated money budgeted for the celebration of 10 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria.

The frontier of the struggle has been expanded to include the roles played by other House leaders in similar responsibilities they were entrusted with, following the outings recorded by Melaye in collating of about 180 signatures of MPs in a day.

The beleaguered Chief Whip has, however, denied the allegation, saying that only N100 million of the said amount was released to his committee and he is ready to present the report of his committee when the House resumed from its one week recess.

Ihedioha, in a statement, admitted that he had headed a 14-man ad hoc committee drawn from all the six geo-political zones of the country and various political caucuses to organise the activities marking the 10 years of uninterrupted democracy in the country but said there was no fraud in the expenditures made.

According to him, “There was no fraud or mismanagement of any sort. The committee’s activities and reports will be made available to the House on resumption.”

The leadership of the House of Representatives, fearing a backlash of the successful vote of no confidence on the Chief Whip, was said to have met to strategise on how to tame the growing numbers of disenchanted MPs.

An MP closed to the House leadership said the body of principal officers met last Tuesday to debate the crisis, and expressed the opinion that allowing the vote of no confidence on the Chief Whip would have resultant effect on the entire leadership.

The MP said, “The leadership was aware that the target will no longer be the Chief Whip but the entire leadership, because, as you can see, questions are being asked about the roles played by the other principal officers in handling similar responsibilities.

“Therefore, the leadership picked hole in the method deployed by the Ihedioha-must-go campaigners. As you can see, most of my colleagues are gullible.

“The leadership in the meeting, therefore, expressed the opinion that the Chief Whip was not given fair hearing as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that the proponents of  Ihedioha-must-go campaigners have violated the House rules by starting the campaign without waiting for the committees to submit their reports. They by-passed the House Rules by refusing to petition the Ethics and Privileges committees on any perceived wrongdoing by any member”.

The MP said Dino Melaye had approached him to append his signature ahead of Tuesday resumption, but he refused to do so, citing personal reasons, but added that he was alarmed at the signatures collated.

But last Thursday, Rep Eseme Eyiboh, chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, confirmed to newsmen the leadership’s position when he faulted the method adopted in collating the signatures, saying that it amounted to putting the cart before the horse.

He said that the House leadership could not pretend to be unaware of the “concerns” being raised in the House, but advised that the proponents of the Ihedioha-must-go campaigners should sheathe their swords until Tuesday, when the House resumes and all committees would present their reports to the House in Plenary.

According to Eyiboh, “The three events enjoyed the support of the House. Ad-hoc committees were set up to oversee those activities and the committees have to bring back report to the House. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible because we were on break. When we resume they will give us report. Everybody who gave consent to a responsibility in return expects to get that accountability.

“The position is that whether there are these media reports or not, every committee, including the ad-hoc committees, will have to report back to the House.

“It is at the instance of our realization of this that in every rule there are allowances for consideration, and these allowances include fairness, responsibility and participation, which we have to speak now. It will be irresponsible of the leadership to now sit back on the media reports without saying anything.”

Also, a group, Network for Good Legislation, in statement condemned the plot to oust the House leadership, saying it was a step in the wrong direction.

The statement signed by one Mallam Sadiq Mukthar said, “The grand plot to throw the House of Representatives into another round of chaos and anarchy, through spurious allegations and media attacks against the leadership of the House has been uncovered.

“The group of few members in the House spearheaded by Hon. Dino Melaye, Chairman, House Committee on Information and National Orientation, who, reports says, have been holding nocturnal meetings at different locations in the FCT, with a view to throwing up spurious allegations against some members of the leadership of the House like Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, Chief Whip, Tunde Akogun, House Leader, and eventually the Speaker, Hon. Dimeji Bankole.

However, Dino Melaye, coordinator of the Ihedioha-must-go campaign had told newsmen that there was no going back on their campaign claiming that about 241 MPs have signed for the vote of no confidence vote on the Chief Whip.

The impeachment of the either the House leader or his Deputy or the Chief whip or any leader apart from the Speaker and his Deputy requires a simple majority of MPs in plenary that day, and Melaye buoyed with this rule said the impeachment of Ihedioha was a forgone issue.

According to him, “For the purpose of clarity, I want to say that I, as Honourable Dino Melaye, do not need many bullets to be killed; I need only one. But the truth of the matter is that the truth has no colour and it has to be told at all time.

We, as legislators, who have oversight functions over the executives have  a very serious need to  ‘oversight’ ourselves. So, what we are doing, I and those who have signed the vote of no confidence list, are actually a mid-term assessment of the House of Representatives. And anyone who has questioned to answer must do so including me.

“We’re not even asking for investigation of Honourable Emeka Ihedioha; we’re not even writing a petition against him. What we are signing, and for very person that has signed that list, is the vote of no confidence on him, which does not need to be debated. Democracy is a vote of number; we can decide to say we don’t appreciate a particular leader’s leadership style, because of his highhandedness or his public relations. We can decide to say we don’t like the face of this leader and, therefore, want to change him.

“The issue of misappropriation can be tackled by the internal mechanism of the House, that is, the Ethics and Privilege committee. That is a separate matter,” Melaye  added.