16 January 2013

Nigeria: Reps Group Moves to Oust Tambuwal

A group of lawmakers are initiating a process of removing the speaker of the House of Representatives over alleged impropriety in the award of a N2.5 billion contract for the purchase of 360 Camry cars for committee activities, sources in the House told Daily Trust yesterday.

The House is due to reconvene in plenary today, after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Sources told Daily Trust that series of meetings were held by the aggrieved members since Thursday to agree on how to launch their campaign against speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

A member of the House who was part of a meeting held at a hotel in Abuja at the weekend allegedly leaked the plot to the House leadership, saying that they planned to ask the speaker to explain the amount spent on the Camry cars and who executed the contract.

He said the group believes that the process of purchase of the cars lacked transparency and that this would be used against the speaker.

"First we are not happy with the amount they said they have purchased committee cars for the House. We want to know how much was spent and who was given the contract," the member was quoted to have said.

When the House announced the cars purchase in late 2011, its spokesman Zakari Mohammed was reported to have said the project would be handled by the management of the National Assembly and not House committees.

Daily Trust could not confirm which procedure was used, as sources in the House said a committee might have been part of the process.

One of the House leaders who does not want to be named said yesterday the leadership has nothing to do with any contracts now, having surrendered this role to the National Assembly management since Tambuwal's emergence as speaker.

Controversy over cars purchase is not new in the House, as it had happened during the tenure of erstwhile speaker Dimeji Bankole when he was accused of overinflating contracts for the purchase of Peugeot cars, which he denied.

The lawmaker being accused of spearheading the fresh moves against Tambuwal is among the leading legislators who backed the speaker's rival Mulikat Adeola-Akande in June 2011.

But when Daily Trust contacted him yesterday over the allegations that he is leading a plot against Tambuwal, he denied it.

He said his group is just an "interest group" of Peoples Democratic Party members from within and outside the National Assembly which has the aim of "promoting and protecting the interest and objectives of our party."

The lawmaker said he is being linked with the alleged plot just to smear his name and blackmail him, but vowed that this would only ginger the group towards achieving its objectives.

For his part, House spokesman Rep. Zakari Mohammed told Daily Trust he was not aware of the alleged moves to oust the speaker.

"It is news to me. We have not even resumed, and normally those issues will only come up when we resume," he said.

The fresh plot against Tambuwal is believed to be getting support from the executive arm of government, which did not hide its opposition to his emergence as speaker in June 2011, sources said.

Tambuwal had survived at least two previous plots to remove him. In June last year, some lawmakers launched a bid to oust him over the Farouk-Otedola bribery scandal but it backfired when the House passed a vote of confidence in him.

In September, a report said legislators launched a bid for a N7 million increase in their quarterly allowances and some of them threatened to oust the speaker unless he agreed to that.

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