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...two more ministers to go

Posted by Sunday Punch on 2005/03/29 | Views: 469 |

...two more ministers to go

Barring a twist of events, two more ministers may soon be removed from office by President Olusegun Obasanjo for allegedly inducing members of the National Assembly with money to shore up budgetary allocations to their ministries.

Barring a twist of events, two more ministers may soon be removed from office by President Olusegun Obasanjo for allegedly inducing members of the National Assembly with money to shore up budgetary allocations to their ministries.

Findings by Sunday Punch on Thursday, in Abuja, showed that one of the ministers lobbied some lawmakers with a princely sum of N100 million last year.

Facts on the actual amount and other strategies allegedly employed by the other minister to lobby the lawmakers were sketchy at 9 pm when the newspaper went to bed.

But we were told that investigations had almost been completed on his case.

A competent source disclosed that one of the ministers hails from the North-east geo-political zone, while the other comes from the North-west.

The Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji, was removed from office on Tuesday by the Federal Government for allegedly offering N55 million bribe to some members of the National Assembly to appropriate more funds to his ministry.

In a broadcast to the nation on Tuesday, President Olusegun Obasanjo named the Senate President, Chief Adolphous Wabara as one of the lawmakers allegedly involved in the bribery scandal.

One of the two ministers currently under investigations was said to have agreed to play ball after some members of a committee at the National Assembly threatened to deal with him for not honouring a summon to clarify certain matters concerning his ministry.

Faced with the threat, the minister was forced to part with the sum of N100 million as "lobby funds" to the committee members.

"The lawmakers in October, 2004, had summoned the minister to come and explain certain issues affecting the operations of his ministry but he refused to honour the summons.

"Some members of the committee then threatened the minister with a warrant of arrest, but the leadership of the National Assembly waded into the issue and advised the Committee to tread with caution.

"During the budget screening exercise, the committee, had insisted that it would not screen the budget without the minister playing ball.

"They claimed that during several visits to some parastatals under the ministry, they discovered that the 2004 Budget was poorly implemented," the source revealed.

Sensing that the lawmakers were desperate for something else, the minister was reportedly forced to succumb to pressure by making available the N100 million bribe.

A highly placed government official told Sunday Punch that Obasanjo had directed the EFCC to commence investigation into the matter.

What might hamper investigations, according to another official, who pleaded anonymity, was the absence of people who are willing to come out and openly declare that they, indeed, collected or gave out bribe.

"One fact that has become a public secret is that every one knows that such practice takes place in official quarters. What everyone expects is to see a situation where someone will come up and say, ‘Yes, I collected bribe or gave out bribe.’

"It is easy for people to allege that someone too is involved, but very difficult to come out in the open.

"If the government is in full possession of the facts, then I can assure you that the president would not waste time to move against the minister. For now, Obasanjo is waiting to have the full facts before acting," the source declared.

Apart from the ministers, eight ministries are under investigation over the alleged financial inducement to enhance budgetary allocations.

The ministries, the source added, were said to have violated the President’s order not to offer any form of financial rewards to lawmakers for the passage of the 2005 Budget.

Meanwhile, feelers indicated on Friday that the president might have decided to reshuffle his cabinet to bring in new hands that could add impetus to the fight against corruption.

The decision by the president to shake up his cabinet followed what a Presidency source described as inadequate measures taken by some ministries to put an effective mechanism to deal with corruption.

The reshuffle, according to the source, was also aimed at bringing round pegs into round holes with the hope of attaining the goals of the fight against corruption, especially on the Kuru Declaration.

"We cannot be claiming to be fighting corruption when it is glaring that certain members of the cabinet are spearheading corrupt practices in the country. Very soon, Obasanjo hopes to effect a change in his cabinet membership. The essence is to bring in competent hands," the source disclosed.

Meanwhile, some loyal senators to the embattled Senate President met Friday night in Abuja to work out plans on how to combat the president over what the lawmakers described as deliberate plans to ridicule the Senate.

The senators, who have one of them from the South-West as their arrow-head, resolved to stand by Wabara over his travails.

Though the source was not forthcoming on details of what the lawmakers intended to do, he, however, revealed that in warfare, every weapon used was fair.

Sources, however, discosed that the Presidency had since got wind of the plot of the pro-Wabara senators and was poised to checkmate them.

It was said to have set up a team, comprising some close confidants of the president, to commence moves designed to neutralise the influence of Wabara’s loyalists in the National Assembly.

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