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Obasanjo probes ministers over bribery charges by Rep

Posted by From Martins Oloja Abuja Bureau Chief on 2005/03/06 | Views: 462 |

Obasanjo probes ministers over bribery charges by Rep


RECENT allegations by a member of the House of Representatives that ministers were bribing the National Assembly to secure easy passage for their budgets are being investigated by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

RECENT allegations by a member of the House of Representatives that ministers were bribing the National Assembly to secure easy passage for their budgets are being investigated by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The President reportedly broke his silence on the matter on Wednesday last week at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting. He was said to have directed all the ministers to personally appear before him to explain their roles in the saga before he completes his investigation.

The Guardian learnt that the President went further to ask the ministers who are in the scandal to confess to him quietly or keep silent and be sanctioned.

An angry President Obasanjo was said to have declared: "I have been reliably informed that you have been engaged in bribing the National Assembly to pass your budgets. If you have been involved, you had better come to me privately and confess. But if you do not confess and my investigation implicates you, it will then be terrible for you... "
He was said to be bitter that one of the pillars of his administration - anti-corruption crusade - was desecrated by those he had picked to be the arrowheads. The President was said to have recounted his fight against the age-long problems of budget distortions and complications.

It was learnt that Obasanjo was saddened by the claims that members of his cabinet who have subscribed to the Kuru Declaration of Transparency and Probity are alleged to be actors in the vice.

A cabinet source said that when the President introduced the graft charges at the FEC meeting, mum was the word as no minister confessed or commented on the subject which came under, "Any Other Business".

A member of the House of Representatives, Haruna Yerima had on February 16 accused the ministers of bribing the legislature to increase their votes and also pass their budgets.

Yerima claimed that the National Assembly had been so sleazy and corrupt that members even collect bribes from ministers and heads of government's agencies to approve their requests.

He said: "Whoever tells you that there is no corruption in the House is in fact, corrupt. Ministers and heads of parastatals are often asked to bring money by some honourable members so that their budgets can be passed".

The legislator, who was quickly suspended by the House for four months for blowing the whistle over the scandal, has maintained his position on the matter.

He also said that "MTN bribes us every month. It brings cards worth N7,500 monthly to each member. I am not working for MTN. I see no reason why MTN should be doing that monthly. I want to write to the Chairman, House Committee on Communications that please we have 360 members, when you go to MTN to collect these things, please, collect for 359". That is to exclude him.

Yerima equally accused his colleagues of making shallow contribution to bills and deceiving the electorate.

"Most of us are contractors. Most of us come here to make money; make what you can make and leave. Most of our debates are beer parlour debates. No research, we argue like ordinary people on the streets. Our debate is shallow," he declared.

Allegations of corruption against the National Assembly first came to the fore in August 2003 when the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, said that two principal officers of the Senate: Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu and Deputy Senate Leader Jonathan Zwingina, had demanded N54 million bribe to clear him as a minister.

The charges, which shook the nation, ended up in an anti-climax when the Senate cleared the accused lawmakers for lack of evidence.`

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