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When a Speaker cries ‘foul’!

Though the Speaker had made similar allegation in the past, but it did not attract media attention. Just a week before that, Bankole told the…

Though the Speaker had made similar allegation in the past, but it did not attract media attention. Just a week before that, Bankole told the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) members who visited him that the so many probes carried out by the nation’s lower legislative chamber have not yielded any positive results since none of the  people fingered in the reports of the various committees were prosecuted.

He said the continuous labelling him of corruption chargeswas being sponsored by people who were exposed of corrupt deeds  by  various investigations of corruption by the House of Representatives under his leadership.

The Speaker went on to say that, that it was expected that there would be spurious allegations against him because of the various frauds that the House has been uncovering through oversight, saying “when you are not doing your job very well, people  do not really talk. Oversight tends to ruffle feathers, we are not used to that in Nigeria, so allegations will start flying everywhere.”

However,  Bankole did not stop there. He  argued that it would be wrong to ask him to step down based on the corruption allegations levelled against him by  members of the Progressive Group. He said the former Speaker  Patricia Etteh’s case does not compare to his as there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations. “The price list in the PAN 407 allegation was forged; PAN and nobody could not authenticate the price list. They alleged that the payment for the cars was made through Zenith Bank, we don’t even have an account with Zenith Bank,” he said.

He accused the petitioners of being desperate in their quest to nail him, he in turn accused his accusers of forging the vouchers of the Management of the National Assembly for the purchase of the cars.

On the allegation by the Progressives, he said the case is before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, adding that people should wait for the outcome of their investigation into the case before drawing conclusions.

The Speaker is not new in going to public to challenge his accusers to substantiate their allegations against him. At the heat of the crisis which led to the dishonorable outings in the hallowed green chamber on June 22 and resulted in the indefinite suspension of the 11 members of the progressives led by Rep Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi), Bankole also  alleged that his life was under threat by some people who he did not know.

His Special Adviser on Media, Ebomhiana Musa, at theheight of the crisis  issued a statement to newsmen alleging that his life and that of his principal  were under threat by unidentified persons.

The statement reads in part, “the threat  was sent through a text message on Saturday morning  to the telephone of Mr. Ebomhiana Musa, the Speaker’s  Special Adviser on Media.” The text message according to the statement read thus: “ Mr. P.A, you & your boss are nothing but dead bodies but you will be firstly face the consequences shortly, prepare your will now”. The text message was sent through GSM No.07039828940.”  

Since then, nothing has been heard of it again.

Since Bankole’s emergence as Speaker in 2007,  the House had probeb into different government agencies among which is the Non-Remittance of government revenues generated by Ministries, Departments and  Agencies (MDAs) amounting to billions of naira. The House received report of the committee and passed a resolution urging all MDAs to be remitting revenues to the government coffers but whether they are abiding by it now is a different story entirely.

Similarly, the lawmakers under the Speakership of Bankole instituted another probe into the rot in the petroleum sector   with a view to unraveling allegations that certain persons in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC),  do receive a daily bribe of $500,000 (N75million) in exchange for an exclusive right to petroleum products imports by some clique. Nothing was heard of that probe as it was inconclusive up till the time of going to press.

In the same vein,  disturbed by  what they called, “the decline in the operational efficiency” of the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS) as manifest in the dwindling revenue generated over the years and poor performance of its key functions, vis-à-vis the current economic realities and challenges, the House  at its plenary session of September 11, 2008, passed a resolution aimed at addressing those concerns. The House, vide the resolution 50/2008 of Thursday September 11, 2008 resolved among other things to mandate its Committee on Customs and Excise to conduct a public hearing on the state of the Nigeria Customs Service and the poor performance of its statutory duties and functions with a view to ascertaining the underlying problems affecting the organization and report back to the House.

The Rep. Yakubu Dogara led committee went into action and after almost two years, they finally submitted their report to the House in May this year. The report was continuously listed on the order paper for consideration for two weeks but it was not debated and shortly thereafter, Bankole reshuffled the chairmen of the standing committees including that of the Customs and Excise. Again, nothing was heard of that report to this day.

Above all however, the popular power probe embarked upon by the lower legislative chamber was the one that many Nigerians expected a positive result shortly after the revelations that about $16 billion USD was wasted by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on that sector without results.

The House mandated its committee on power chaired then by Rep. Ndudi Elumelu to investigate the expenditures in the power sector from 1999 to 2008 and submit report to the House. The committee, after delaying its submission for about 33 days, finally submitted a reviewed version of the recommendations in which it became very contentious among members of the green chamber when it was listed for consideration.

On March 19 last year, the House formed a seven-man committee to review some of the 88-point recommendations after it became obvious that overwhelming members of the House where jostling to kill the entire recommendations.

The seven-member Committee was headed by Deputy Chief Whip of the Reps, Aminu Tambuwal (PDP, Sokoto). The Committee was mandated to “review” the recommendations of the power probe report and report back to the House on March 26th, 2009.

But, on that day, Tambuwal had complained that some of the government officials invited for questioning had snubbed the committee, and had asked the House to extend its mandate by another week which was granted.  After that week expired, Tambuwal again, asked for another extension of a week.

The extension was again granted. But, on the day he was expected to lay the report before the House, the reviewed recommendations were not listed in the Order Paper of the day. And when the committee finally submitted the reviewed report, many people who had the opportunity of perusing the earlier report believed that most of the major findings and indictments made by the first committee were watered down.

In all the probes carried out by the House under Bankole’s leadership, nobody was either fingered in it nor prosecuted except that the table turned when Elumelu and co were later arraigned before an Abuja Federal High Court for allegedly defrauding the government of N5.2 billion naira through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

Bankole said it will be wrong for anybody to blame the legislature for not prosecuting those involved in the scam because the constitution, according him does, not empower them to do so.

The embattled Speaker has not come out to name those he is suspecting of persecuting him nor has he officially reported to the matter to police to wade into it.  If the Speaker would not go further to name those persecuting him, the whole matter might as well be his own cup of tea alone.

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