Daily Champion (Lagos)

Nigeria: They Offered Me Bribe - Etteh

Abuja — THE contract scandal rocking the House of Representatives assumed a new dimension weekend when some lawmakers loyal to the embattled Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, alleged that some members of the Integrity Group offered bribes to be appointed committee chairman.

Integrity Group is composed of progressives under which auspices the anti-Etteh campaign is being prosecuted.

But to counter the group, the Etteh loyalists have announced the formation of Due Process Group to articulate the position of pro-Etteh lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel has described the scam currently creating pandemonium in the House, as an unfortunate development, stressing that the House should be allowed to decide on what to do at this critical time.

Speaking to newsmen at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos on his arrival from Accra, Ghana, Governor Daniel said the call for President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua to prevail upon Hon Etteh, to step aside was not practicable insisting that since the lower House has its standing rules no other arm of government can meddle in its affairs.

He said, "what is happening in the House is quite unfortunate but I still insist that the rule of law should take place. The House should be allowed to decide its fate and case because it is an independent arm of government, it is a process of democracy, the President cannot ask anybody to step aside rather the House should be allowed to carry out the process through the normal way".

Governor Daniel also described his victory at the elections petition tribunal in Abeokuta as victory for democracy.

He said that the judgment showed his, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)'s perseverance in upliftment of the state adding that it had finally put to rest speculations and agitations from the opponents.

The Tribunal sitting in Abeokuta on Friday declared Daniel as the winner of the April 14 2007 governorship elections after the Governorship candidates for both the All Nigeria Peoples' Party (ANPP) and the Action Congress (AC), Ibikunle Amosun and Dipo Dina respectively, dragged him before the Tribunal claiming the PDP did not win the elections in the state.

"I thank God for everything, I thank my people in the party and at home, I also thank my colleagues, this is victory for democracy, it is perseverance and that is very good, we thank God that despite all agitations, there is light at the end of the day", he said.

He however welcomed the opponents to his government saying they would only work together for the good of the state.

On his trip to Ghana, he said he had gone to join young African leaders at a meeting on leadership in preparing them for future challenges.

Meanwhile, spokesman of the Due Process Group, Hon Austin Nwachukwu while briefing newsmen in Abuja, said names of the accused lawmakers would be made public soon by the speaker herself.

He stated that it was when Etteh turned down the bribe which also included a brand new vehicle, the unnamed lawmakers in a desperate move to soil her name decided to link her to the vexed contract.

Etteh, he said could not be blamed for alleged contract scam as the David Idoko-led panel never found her guilty of such allegation.

The House Minority Whip and AC Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, in a recent interview stated that the House does not need to deliberate on the Idoko panel report anymore and that the Speaker, Hon Etteh should resign.

According to Hon. Nwachukwu, the whole saga has nothing to do with fraud and proper procedure but the botched desire by some members of the Integrity Group to get juicy committee chairmanship appointments.

He implored Etteh's accusers to follow due process in raising their grievances noting that she remains the speaker until she is impeached by popular votes in the hallowed chamber of the House of Representatives and not on the pages of newspapers.

Lawmakers who attended the briefing which also announced the group are Hons Attai Aidoko (Kogi), Festus Adegoke (Oyo), Dino Melaye (Kogi), Gbenga Alegbeleye (Ondo), Doris Uboh (Delta), Fatima Raji Rasaki (Ekiti), Soli Sada Jibia (Katsina), Folake Olunloyo Oshinowo (Oyo) and Mohammed Muktar (Niger) among others.

But the catholic archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, yesterday reiterated his call on the speaker to resign or be disgraced out.

Okogie spoke in Lagos shortly after performing the dedication of the ultra modern church building of St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Alaba, Lagos.

He enjoined Madam Speaker to emulate the likes of Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo Iweala former finance minister who later became the World Bank Managing Direcor

"She was brought specifically to help salvage the economy of this nation and as soon as ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo discovered that she had achieved her goals, he redeployed her to a different place. And she kindly told him, sorry, this is not my position,' see where God has placed her now because she respected her self."

Okogie described the present situation in the House of Representatives as awful stressing that it did not speak well of the country.

"Even the same thing is coming now in the senate even though the senate president, Senator David Mark, said he was ready to step aside should the Senate want to probe him.

"That is all right, but this our lady here, she said she is not ready to step aside, she is ready to fight to the end," she said.

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