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N2.3bn car scandal: Drama as new group demands detailed probe

Posted by Punch on 2008/11/18 | Views: 2575 |

N2.3bn car scandal: Drama as new group demands detailed probe


There was a dramatic twist to the N2.3bn scandal rocking the House of Representatives on Tuesday as a new bloc, the Transparency Group, emerged and called for a "thorough, unfettered and independent investigation" into the alleged fraud in the procurement of 380 Peugeot 407 cars for House committee duties.

There was a dramatic twist to the N2.3bn scandal rocking the House of Representatives on Tuesday as a new bloc, the Transparency Group, emerged and called for a "thorough, unfettered and independent investigation" into the alleged fraud in the procurement of 380 Peugeot 407 cars for House committee duties.

The group, led by the immediate-past Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Mr. Tam Brisibe, adopted the allegations of a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo.

Keyamo’s allegations are already the subject of investigations by the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges.

But the leadership of the House dismissed the group, saying that it was not known to the legislature.

Incidentally, the five lawmakers named by a pro-democracy activist, Mr. Umar Farouk, as being the brains behind an alleged plot to remove the Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, are members of the transparency group.

They are Mr. Independence Ogunewe, Mr. Kayode Amusan, Mr. Gbenga Oduwaiye, Mr. Festus Adegoke and Mr. Solomon Awhinawhin.

A female member of the House, Folake Oshinowo, also identified with the group.

The group emerged shortly after Ogunewe, Amusan, Oduwaiye, Awhinawhin and Adegoke testified before the ethics committee headed by Mr. Sani Saleh-Minjibir on Tuesday.

The five lawmakers were invited by the panel to respond to Farouk’s allegation that they had hired him to circulate anti-Bankole leaflets and documents on the N2.3bn car contract scam.

Farouk, who claimed that he was offered N1m to do the job, stated that he met at several times with the lawmakers at different venues in Abuja and collected N200, 000 mobilisation from Ogunewe.

But, on Tuesday, one after the other, the five lawmakers denied ever meeting with Farouk.

When a tape believed to contain Ogunewe’s conversations with Farouk was played to him, he (Ogunewe) denied vehemently that it was his voice that was on the tape.

"If it is established that I am the person on that tape, let the committee recommend whatever punishment that is in the rules of the House," Ogunewe told the panel.

Addressing journalists at the premises of the National Assembly, the transparency group said that in addition to the car scandal, the leadership of the House should not "cover up" a second matter bordering on the purchase of office equipment and luxury cars worth about N1.9bn.

On the 380 Peugeot 407 car contract, the group challenged Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited and the Management of the National Assembly to publish the details of the original contract papers since they said those presented by Keyamo were fake.

It said, "PAN’s explanation that the price of the cars supplied is the same with the ST Sport Auto is unacceptable and should be totally rejected.

"The fact that PAN supplied 370 units of Comfort Auto and only 10 units of ST Sport Auto to the leadership of the House amounts to double standard and should be investigated."

However, when Brisibe, who spoke for members of the group, was asked whether they were not satisfied with the ongoing investigation of the contract by the Ethics and Privileges Committee, he said that they had "confidence" in it.

Reacting to the comments of the group, the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Labaran Dambatta, expressed surprise that it (group) was raising issues that were already being investigated by a committee of the House.

He said, "This is entirely strange to us; are they saying that an ad-hoc committee or a different committee be set up?

"Why did they come out as transparency group after they had appeared before the committee of the House? If they were not satisfied with the committee, why did they go there?

"This group is not known to the House; they came out for the first time today."

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