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148 N’Assembly members under probe

Posted by Yusuf Alli and Sam Akpe, Abuja on 2005/03/29 | Views: 270 |

148 N’Assembly members under probe

Indications emerged on Sunday that 148 members of the National Assembly are currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the State Security Service over corruption-related cases.

Indications emerged on Sunday that 148 members of the National Assembly are currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the State Security Service over corruption-related cases.

Of the number, 120 are members of the House of Representatives while the rest are senators.

Sources in Abuja, told our correspondents also that 11 Senate Committees were under the scrutiny of the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission following petitions against them by some government agencies.

It was learnt that some ‘hawks’ in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s kitchen cabinet had advised The Presidency to release the outstanding reports on the lawmakers.

The hawks, who were said to be part of a meeting hosted by Obasanjo at his Ota Farm in Ogun State, according to one of the sources, argued that the lawmakers’ threat of impeachment should not be taken lightly.

The meeting was also attended by the President’s close associates.

Our sources said that while some of those at the meeting wanted a selective action against some of the legislators, the ‘hawks’ preferred an outright onslaught.

Authoritative sources in the Senate named the Committee on Appropriation and Finance headed by Senator John Azuta-Mbata, and the Petroleum Upstream Committee headed by Senator Lee Maeba as top on the list of those being probed by the EFCC and ICPC.

The Committee on Works, headed by Senator Idris Kuta, Committee on Power and Steel headed by Francis Arthur Nzeribe, and that on Defence headed by Senator Fidelis Okoro, are also being investigated.

The Committee on Federal Character, with Senator Ken Nnamani as chairman, is also said to be on the list.

A principal officer of the Senate told our correspondents on Friday that more heads would roll “in the next few weeks," depending on the outcome of the investigations.

The source, who pleaded anonymity, explained that no formal charges had been brought against any of the committees, but that the commissions were acting on petitions submitted by some government agencies.

Most of the petitions, according to him, were connected with interactions with committee members during oversight visits and budget considerations.

The source said some of the committees were not even aware that they were being investigated.

Also going through quiet scrutiny is the Petroleum Downstream Committee headed by Senator Emmanuel Agboti.

The committee recently examined the failed Turn-Around Maintenance of refineries across the country and is yet to hold the public hearing it proposed last year.

Obasanjo had confirmed in his broadcast to the nation last week that the Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions was under investigations for undisclosed offences.

Another source said the Committee on States and Local Government led by Senator Iyabode Anisulowo also had petitions written against it.

The speculated scrutiny of the Niger Delta Committee headed by Senator John Brambaifa has reportedly been dropped for lack of concrete evidence.

The committee was alleged to have demanded huge amounts from presidential nominees to the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission before effecting their confirmation.

At present, five of the nominees are yet to be cleared, three months after the list was first submitted. The Senate mandated the committee to submit its report last Tuesday.

Azuta-Mbata of Appropriation Committee could not be reached at the weekend to confirm the report.

But our findings showed that his committee was accused of serving as a clearing house to other committees, which allegedly demanded and collected bribes during budget consideration.

Maeba, in his reaction on Sunday, said he was not aware of the probe.

He said, "They should go ahead. But I know it's not true. Upstream Committee cannot be investigated because there is no money there.

"But if anybody wants to investigate, I will be very willing and ready, and I will be very happy because if they investigate Upstream (Committee) first, maybe they won't investigate any other committee.

"If there is any investigation, I don't think they can invite me because there is nothing to ask me; any oil company that has given me one dollar should come out and say so."

Maeba said such a probe would however not deter him from continuing his planned investigation of the activities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and some oil companies.

The vice-chairman of the Committee on Banking, Insurance and Financial Institutions, Senator Farouk Bello Bunza, said, "Obasanjo is being unfair to us."

Sounding furious, he said the mere fact that a committee he belongs to was mentioned in the broadcast was enough “to send the wrong signals to people.

"In that committee, I am the vice-chairman. But at no time was I approached nor did I receive any money to ensure the passage of the CBN and Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act from any quarters.

"If I did, I challenge anybody, anybody, to come forward with information.

"The basis on which we passed the law was to engender sound banking practice, and in the best interest of this country.

"I have been a banker for 15 years, and the only thing that I feel I should contribute to the National Assembly is to bring my professional experience to bear on my committee.”

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