27 January 2011

Nigeria: Bankole, Others Risk Impeachment

Indications emerged yesterday that a group of lawmakers, who lost their return tickets during the primaries have vowed to remove the Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, over his alleged failure to pursue the actualisation of an accord allegedly struck between the federal legislature and President Goodluck Jonathan for the incumbent lawmakers to be granted automatic tickets.

One of the lawmakers, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that already some persons have gone to court to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to prosecute Bankole and his Deputy Usman Nafada over the N2.3 billion car purchase scam as well as the N9 billion capital vote scam which led to the controversial suspension of Hon Dino Melaye and 10 others.

The aggrieved group led by a prominent lawmaker from the South-south geo-political zone is also uncomfortable with the apparent silence of President Jonathan whom they accused of trading away the gentleman's agreement to boost his relationship with the state governors ahead of the presidential elections.

The group, which is said to be working closely with some lawmakers in the Senate, has also commenced the compilation of the impeachable offences against President Jonathan whom, our source said, they also plan to remove after the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly might have crumbled.

Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, has however denied knowledge of the impeachment plot. Eyiboh acknowledged that though a lot of lawmakers were angry over the outcome of the last party primaries, he was not aware of any plot to topple the leadership of the parliament.

According to him, the primary election was the business of the respective political parties and could not be mixed up with the politics of leadership and governance in the National Assembly.

"I am aware that most members are aggrieved on the set-backs they suffered during the political party primaries but that is purely a political party affair. I doubt if it has anything to do with governance issue in the House of Representatives as an institution. For us in the House of Representatives, there is a subsisting commitment for us and the leadership to work as a family in the overall interest of the Nigerian people," he said.

THISDAY checks revealed that it was the looming threat of impeachment that forced Bankole to unilaterally adjourn the sitting of the House on Tuesday shortly after the amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 that granted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) extra four weeks to conclude the voter registration.

Apart from the challenges of the voter registration, the lawmakers who resumed from their Christmas and New Year holidays last Tuesday had a backlog of bills and reports to attend to but were taken aback when Bankole suddenly announced they were proceeding on another two-week break.

The House had earlier shelved the same resumption date for one week alongside the Senate following the initial indications that trouble was looming over the parliament on account of the heavy casualties resulting from the primaries.

It was learnt that apart from the snippets of intelligence gathered by the leadership of the House before resumption, Bankole also read the mood of the House particularly when he was openly confronted with allegations of injustice by Melaye and five other lawmakers over the seizure of their salaries and allowances even after the court quashed their suspension last year.

THISDAY learnt that the game plan was to latch on the discontentment of the six lawmakers to throw up other grievances and allegations against the leadership of the House. But Bankole nipped the crisis in the bud when he cut short the debate and ruled that since the matter was in court, the lawmakers would only be paid if they won the case.

However, THISDAY gathered that the aggrieved lawmakers are not relenting and have commenced nocturnal meetings in discrete locations for the purpose of mapping out strategies on how to hatch the plot when the House resumes.

They have also prevailed on their colleagues in the various committees to suspend consideration of the 2011 Appropriation Bill until the leadership of the House and the Presidency respond to their grievances.

As part of the plot to rattle Bankole, the group may soon exhume various financial scams that had plagued the House over the past three years and insist that the leadership be investigated in the spirit of transparency.

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