Abuja — The presidency Tuesday fired back at the House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, over his scathing comments on President Goodluck Jonathan's alleged reluctance to fight corruption.
It described as unfortunate, the speaker's comments on Monday that the president's body language was encouraging corruption.
But Jonathan's Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Rueben Abati, in a burst of tweets, faulted Tambuwal, saying the administration would not fight corruption based on "speculations or bad politics."
Unlike the presidency, the All Progressives Congress (APC) lauded Tambuwal for plucking the courage to speak out on how the Jonathan administration has been encouraging corruption by its lack of diligence in tackling the menace.
A report by an online news medium, Premium Times, quoted Abati as saying via his twitter handle, @abati1990, that the administration was doing all it could to stem the tide of corruption in the country.
Tambuwal had spoken while responding to questions on Monday after he presented a paper titled the 'Role of the legislature in the fight against corruption in Nigeria' at a one-day roundtable to mark the international anti-corruption day, organised by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja that the president seemed to be undermining the anti-graft war by his handling of some notable corruption cases.
"Take the subsidy probe, the pension, the SEC probe and recently the bulletproof car cases. After the House of Representatives did a diligent job by probing and exposing the cases, you now see something else when it comes to prosecution.
"In some cases, you have the government setting up new committees to duplicate the job already done by the parliament. Take the bulletproof cars case, the NSA, with all the security challenges confronting the country, should not be burdened with a job that can best be handled by the anti-corruption agencies," the speaker had said.
In his reaction, Abati, in a series of tweets, said: "Tambuwal should focus more on the efforts of the administration in fighting corruption, and comment on what he knows. The administration is not going to fight corruption on the basis of a mere speculation, or the bad politics being played by some people. I think it is unfortunate that a man that is occupying such a high office is talking about body language.
"He is certainly in a position to know the truth and defend both his party and the government. He should make the effort to know that government is investigating various matters and working on them in accordance with due process. President Jonathan will not condone any act of proven corruption. The fight against corruption is ultimately a collective responsibility."
The APC however differed from the presidency on Tambuwal's comments as it expressed support for the speaker over what it described as his principled stand on the Jonathan administration's tepid fight against corruption.
In a statement yesterday by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the speaker exhibited a leadership trait that was rare in this part of the world by shunning partisanship to say that the president's body language showed that he lacked the political will to fight corruption. It said: "Hon. Tambuwal and President Jonathan belong to the same political party, but this did not deter the speaker from rising above crass partisanship when the issue involved borders on national interest. This is the stuff of good leadership.
"Hon. Tambuwal has shown that he is indeed the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives and that the entire country is his constituency, unlike President Jonathan who has transformed himself to a PDP and a sectional leader by viewing serious issues of national importance from the prism of partisanship and sectionalism."
According to APC, it is delighted to be in the same company with the speaker over Jonathan's nonchalant stand on corruption, which has eaten deeper into the national fabric under the present administration.
"We have raised the same issues raised by the Hon. Speaker several times in our regular intervention, but the administration has dismissed our concerns on the altar of partisanship.
"However, now that no less a personality than the country's number four citizen and a top member of the PDP is the one raising the issue, and coming against the background of Nigeria's slide in the 2013 ranking released recently by the global anti-corruption body, Transparency International, we hope the administration will realise that it has only been paying a lip service to the anti-graft battle and perhaps make amends," the party said.
It added that the speaker was right in talking about the president's body language, which is a reflection of the deceptive actions he (president) has taken over very serious issues of corruption, including the monumental fuel subsidy scam, the pension scam, the fraud involving the excess crude account, the Sure-P scandal and Oduahgate.
"These are slam-dunk corruption cases that should have been handed over to the anti-corruption agencies for summary disposal. Instead, the president - thinking Nigerians will merely scream and forget after some time - engages in his usual distracting method of setting up committees, the report of which he will then put away to gather dust....until another corruption case rears its ugly head.
"Nigerians are not stupid and they understand very clearly that the president is shielding corrupt people, as long as they are willing and able to contribute massively, from their ill-gotten funds, to his (president's) campaign slush funds," it said.
The party said now that a person of the calibre of the speaker had added his voice to the burning issue, the president should decide to "either move to redeem the image of his administration or continue to swim in the ocean of corruption."