29 January 2016

Nigeria: Corruption Allegation - Obasanjo Under Fire From National Assembly

Federal lawmakers yesterday expressed anger over former President Olusegun Obasanjo's letter to the leadership of the National Assembly accusing it of financial recklessness and insensitivity to the declining state of the country's economy.

They said, in his usual manner of always bringing out missives to create unnecessary tension and acrimony and heat up the polity, Obasanjo may have written his recent letter to set them on a collision course with President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the letter dated January 13 and addressed to Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the former president accused the federal lawmakers of allocating to themselves salaries and allowances that were far higher than what is specified for them by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

Although the letter, which was widely publicised yesterday, was not read on either chamber of the National Assembly, it has however generated disquiet among the legislators since it was leaked to the press a couple of days ago.

One of the lawmakers who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday yesterday said it was a general consensus among them that Obasanjo was trying to cause disaffection between the National Assembly and President Buhari in order to generate the kind of executive/legislative feud that characterised his administration between 1999 and 2007.

"You know former President Obasanjo's closeness with President Buhari, and you can recall how his previous letters shook the system; so given the ongoing anti-corruption fight, he only wanted set Buhari against us. I can confirm to you that this is our understanding of his latest antics," the lawmaker who preferred not to be named in print said.

Also, Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday faulted former President Obasanjo over allegations of corruption and insensitivity against the National Assembly.

Saraki, through his special adviser, Media, Mr Yusulf Olaniyun, had assured, last Wednesday, that he would reply the former president in the similar manner he was written.

Keeping to his promise, the Senate President, who opted for his Twitter handle, said the 8th Senate was not only committed to good governance, but was also prepared to ensure accountability and transparency in its dealings.

Saraki assured the former president that the Senate, under his leadership, understands the economic challenges facing the country and would always follow the due process and responsiveness in its duties.

Saraki twitted: "I will want to assure President Obasanjo that the leadership and membership of the 8th Senate are committed to good governance, transparency, accountability, due process and responsiveness to the economic realities of our nation.

"It is for this reason that the legislative chamber has introduced bold and progressive reforms in the management of the finances of the National Assembly."

He further stated that the 8th Senate was prepared to lead by example in terms of its funding, budget and accountability, stressing that the Red Chamber was also determined to strengthen its committees to be able to carry out oversight functions.

He commended the former president for his patriotism and concerns, saying he would reply the letter and outline the actions the Senate was taking to address his concerns.

LEADERSHIP FRIDAY gathered that Saraki's response to Obasanjo's letter did not go down well with some senators who expressed displeasure at the way the Senate president was gentle with a someone whose letter they considered as ill-conceived and written in bad faith.

"We expected a more punchy and daring response from the Senate president. You and I know very well that Obasanjo does not sleep well whenever it has taken long since he 'jammed' people's head together and overheated the polity with baseless allegations. In this case, he wants we and the presidency to be at loggerheads the way it always happened during his two term tenures of eight years", one of the senators told our correspondent in confidence.

Obasanjo Exposed NASS to Corruption - Melaye

Meanwhile, Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) said yesterday that former President Obasanjo had no moral ground to scribble the letter he sent to the leadership of the National Assembly because he was the one who exposed federal legislature to corruption.

In a statement he issued yesterday, Melaye noted that Obasanjo's claims in the letter were misplacement of anger.

Dismissing the issues raised by the former president, the senator asked Obasanjo not mistake the present National Assembly for the one during his government which, he said, the ex-president corrupted with bribery in a failed attempt to get an unconstitutional third tenure.

He said even though he was against corruption anywhere in Nigeria and had tremendous respect for the former president, he would not support accusations based on anger and vindictiveness.

Melaye said, "The letter, I can see, is a misplacement of anger. Our leader is mistaking the 8th National Assembly as the same Senate that defrauded him in 2007; those who collected his money and refused to implement the 3rd term agenda. I appeal to 'baba' that we are not the ones please.

"After nine years of that bribery saga, the first of its kind, I expect forgiveness to have taken place. There was the case of bribery introduced by the Obasanjo regime in the desperate attempt to remove Speaker Ghali Umar Na'Abba from office then. In fact there was an open display of that bribery money on the floor of the House.

"That government exposed the National Assembly to corruption and easy money. I hope this is not in an attempt to cover up and distract attention from the Halliburton and Siemens corruption allegations."

Obasanjo's Letter Was Meant For NASS Under His Govt - Reps

Meanwhile, the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas, at a weekly press briefing yesterday dismissed former President Obasanjo's letter as one probably meant for the lawmakers who served while he was the president between 1999 to 2007.

Namdas added that the leadership of the House had respect for Obasanjo and would not join him in issues which did not concern them, insisting that the letter was misdirected to the 8th National Assembly.

He said: "Such letter is distractive and, probably, such letter is not for the 8th Assembly. It may be for the 4th and 5th Assemblies when the former president was in power.

"And if you think the letter was for us, I think he was advising us to be open, and this Assembly is open."

Senate Suspends Plenary For 2 Weeks

Senate yesterday suspended plenary for two weeks to enable senators conduct budget hearings where the various ministries and agencies of government would appear to defend their budgets.

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, made the announcement yesterday, stressing that the suspension of the plenary would allow the relevant committees with oversight functions to receive briefings from the MDAs ahead of the proposed date for the passage of the 2016 budget.

The Senate had passed through second reading the 2016 budget last Wednesday

Senate Probes Manitoba Hydro Over Refusal To Accept Naira

The Senate President yesterday assured that, henceforth, impunity and financial recklessness on the part of public office holders would not be tolerated under whatever guise.

Saraki's remarks came on the heels of a motion on the alleged unwholesome practices by Manitoba Hydro International Nigeria Ltd under the direction and control of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).

Senators Muhammed Hassan, Dino Melaye, Shehu Sani, Abubakar Kyari, Albert Bassey and Ali Wakil had, in a motion, accused Manitoba of refusing to accept Naira as legal tender for payments for goods and services in Nigeria.

They noted that the company was subject to the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, carried out its business in Nigeria but was paid in millions of dollars of scarce public funds.

According to the movers of the motion, "It is criminal offence as stipulated in section 20 (5) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007 for any person or body corporate to refuse the acceptance of Naira as the legal tender currency for payments for goods and services in Nigeria.

"We are convinced that the management services contract prepared by BPE for the management of TCN is fraught with apparent illegalities and total violations of the laws of Nigeria."

"We are further convinced that these apparent illegalities would inevitably result in corruption, inefficiencies, waste of public resources, lack of transparency and accountability in the management of TCN".

Consequent upon that, the Senate resolved to investigate the entire circumstances surrounding the preparations, execution and implementation of the management services for TCN and all other related matters.

Reps To Probe Alleged N50m, Motorcycles Largesse For Members

The House of Representatives yesterday mandated its Standing Committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate an alleged sharing of N50 million and 150 motorcycles by the leadership of the House to each member.

The decision followed a point of privilege raised by the deputy minority whip, Hon. Yakubu Barde, on the floor of the House at plenary.

Hon. Barde had alleged that a member of the House from Kaduna State, Hon. Mohammad Abubakar, representing Igabi federal constituency of the state, was heard speaking on a local radio station (Liberty Radio) in Kaduna metropolis, saying that the leadership of the House was sharing the largesse to members, but did not give further explanations.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who presided over the plenary, referred the matter to the committee on ethics and privileges, which was asked to report back to the lower chamber in four weeks.

'Why Multimillion Dollars CCTV Project Is Not Working'

A former managing director of the Nigeria Communications Satellite (NigComSat), Engr. Ahmed Rufa'i, under whose tenure the contract for the installation of Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in Lagos and Abuja was awarded and executed, has blamed the non-functioning of the project on the lack of operational funds from the federal government.

Rufa'i made the disclosure at the first day of an investigative hearing organised by a House of Representatives Adhoc Committee saddled with the responsibility of investigating the award of contract for the installations of CCTV in Lagos and Abuja and why it was abandoned.

He told the committee that there was nothing wrong with the project at the completion of the installations carried out by ZTE Corporation of China, but that the CCTV cameras failed to function due to the government's inability to continue to fund the network base.

"After completion and handover, government could not provide operational funds. At a time, the network was powered down because of the government's inability to provide operational funds," Rufa'i said.

Chairman of the committee, Hon. Ahmed Yerima (APC, Bauchi), in his opening remarks had bemoaned the non-completion of the project, saying it had negative effect on the capacity of security agencies to fight crime in the country.

LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the investigative hearing followed a resolution of the House on Thursday, October 8, 2015 after the adoption of a motion to probe the matter.

The contract, which was contracted by the then Ministry of Police Affairs, is an integral part of a larger project dubbed Nigerian National Public Security Communications System (NPSCS), facilitated by a 20-year loan from the EXIM Bank of China and with counterpart funding by the federal government.

Inspector-General of Police Solomon Arase was conspicuously absent without any representation, alongside the National Security Adviser (NSA) retired General Babagana Monguno, the officials of the Nigerian Communications Communication (NCC) and three former ministers of Police Affairs, namely retired Navy Commodore Caleb Olubolade, Humphrey Abah and Alhaji Abduljelil Adesiyan.

Meanwhile, there was a mild drama as the director general of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Emeka Eze, described the contract as illegal, saying it was not certified by the Bureau.

A former minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Maina Waziri, however cautioned the committee on the sum of $470 million being bandied around as the contract sum for the installation of the CCTV cameras, saying the amount is the total money for the whole National Public Security Communications System (NPSCS) project, and that the CCTV was just one out of five components of the project.

Senate Upholds Sack Of 2 Civil Servants

In another development, the Senate yesterday refused to order the reinstatement of Engineer Adamu Suleiman Yakubu and Mr Salahudeen Balarabe Yakubu who were dismissed from the services of National Universities Commission, NUC, and Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, NEPZA, respectively.

The resolution to stand by the dismissal of the two former civil servants by their employers was contained in the report of the Senate committee on Public Petitions presented by the committee chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu.

Anyanwu's committee had recommended that the sacking of the two men were justifiable and advised the two to accept the situation.

In a related development Senate also received the reports of the committee on Aviation on the need to publish Accident Investigation Reports.

The report was presented by the chairman of the committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma.

Similarly, the upper legislative chamber received the report of the committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND in respect of a motion on the new JAMB policy on admission.

The report was presented by chairman of the committee, Senator Binta Nasi Garba.

Andrew Oota, Bode Gbadebo, George Agba and Jonathan Nda-Isaiah


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