analysisBy Louis Achi
The House of Representatives is witnessing considerable tension over allegations of $620,000 bribe involving Hon. Farouk Lawan, chairman Ad Hoc Committee on the Fuel Subsidy Regime. As this scenario unfolds, Deputy Speaker EmekaIhedioha was fingered as an accomplice. Ahead of yesterday's Reps emergency session, LOUIS ACHI examines the drama and substance of the allegation.
As the simmering crisis buffeting the House of Representatives reaches a crescendo, new speculations and angles are coming to light.
From LEADERSHIP WEEKEND's finding, the beef of the allegation targeting Deputy Speaker of the 7th House of Representatives EmekaIhedioha is woven around what transpired when he presided over the committee of the whole House when the report of Hon. Farouk Lawan-led ad hoc committee was adopted.
The political sensitivity of oil sector related issues in Nigeria was played up again as the Faroukgate drama continues. In this connection, the core speculation is that Honourable Lawan may not have acted alone by collecting the alleged $620,000 from billionaire business man, Mr. Femi Otedola, without the knowledge of principal officers of the House.
Further, it was speculated that Deputy Speaker Ihedioha who presided over the committee of the whole House when the report was adopted, knew about the bribe and "that explains why he called on Farouk Lawan to speak on item 29 during the consideration of the subsidy report."
Along this line of conjecture, when he was recognized, Farouk Lawan then requested for the deletion of Mr. Otedola'sZenon Oil and two others and thus absolved them from any wrong doing.
A process which was captured on several broadcast channels and essentially not clandestine, Ihedioha thereafter put the question and it was carried.
This decision is apparently making some Reps to now argue that the deputy speaker might have been briefed about the $3 million dollars in which $620,000 was paid to Farouk lawan as installment.
Still in the realm of speculation, over 350 Reps members are now mounting pressure on Speaker AminuTambuwal to summon emergency session, with a view to taking a position on the unfolding drama.
Backing these allegations are also unconfirmed reports that the aide of the deputy speaker visited several media houses in an effort to neutralize any untoward reports against his principal.
Against the background of these weighty allegations and insinuations being pushed by shadowy forces, LEADERSHIP WEEKEND sought the response of the Deputy Speaker himself.
According to Hon. Ihedioha, "Under the Rules of the House, consideration of committee reports is usually presided over by the deputy speaker as chairman of the Committee of the Whole during such consideration, the Chairman of the committee whose report is being considered is often recognised by the presiding officer to make clarifications, further explanations and amendments as the case may be especially when and where questions are raised by honourable members."
Further clarifying the controversy, Ihedioha, speaking through his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. OkeEpia, the chairman in seeking to make clarifications or amendments as the case may be is sometimes asked to approach the chair and confer with the presiding officer to elucidate on some issues adding that this is normal and standard parliamentary procedure.
"It is therefore completely within the rules of the House and parliamentary procedures for the presiding officer to have allowed chairman of the ad-hoc committee on the management of fuel subsidy to make clarifications and amendments during consideration of the report as witnessed, Oke told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND.
Against this background, the office of the deputy speaker dismissed the allegations of complicity targeted at the deputy speaker. "It is therefore naive, untenable and mischievous suggestion to the effect that the presiding officer may have been in the know of alleged underhand dealings of the committee chair simply because he recognised him to make the amendment on the clause in question
"It is must be borne in mind that the presiding officer did recognise the committee chair and members to propose other amendments some of which were carried. Thus, the focus on the clause in question must be seen for what it is - mischief and a calculated attempt to drag the leadership of the House into the bribe allegations."
Cutting to the heart of his defence, Ihedioha's minder consigned the allegation of foreknowledge of the bribery to the doorsteps of a plot by powerful forces to rubbish the integrity of the House leadership. His words: "This whole plot to drag the leadership of the House, particularly the deputy speaker, into the allegations must be seen for what it is.
It is part of a grand design by powerful forces to rubbish the integrity of the house leadership; discredit the report and shield those who have plundered the commonwealth of the nation in the name of fuel subsidy.
"Nigerians can read between the lines as the mass generality of citizens represented through the NLC, civil society organizations, political parties, and various other interest groups have reiterated their call on the executive to implement the subsidy report even in the face of the current allegations
"The House, as has been stated by its Committee on Media and Public Affairs, has affirmed its resolve to support measures that will get to the roots of this matter without shielding anyone."
In all, as the controversy continues, a common consensus is emerging from the ranks of labour, civil society organisations, political opposition and key politicians that the sanctity of Lawan report must be kept intact and implemented fully.
For the common Nigerian masses who wait and watch in the wings, it may be yet morning on creation day.