- I have no cap to receive dollars – Committee chairman
- Nigerians call for thorough investigation of fresh bribery allegations
BY NSEOBONG OKON-EKONG
Nigerians, on Thursday, witnessed a replay of what has become familiar as the House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee investigating alleged job racketeering and gross mismanagement in Ministries, Department and Agencies petitioned the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and other Related Offences over bribery allegations against members of the committee.
Previous investigations of similar nature by the federal legislators often provided a smokescreen that covered details of what they were supposed to expose.
Chairman of the committee, Yusuf Gagdi, revealed this when rectors of Federal Polytechnics appeared before the committee in Abuja.
Referring to a 2012 incident where a former member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, was alleged to have demanded and receive $500,000 from oil magnate, Femi Otedola, which he squeezed under his cap, Gagdi said the panel would not cave in to what he called ‘cheap blackmail’ in the discharge of its duties.
“This is unacceptable. I do not have a cap to receive dollars. So also the members of my committee, you cannot get us,” he said.
However, comparable occasions of federal legislators carrying out aspects of their oversight of MDAs, could lead to the conclusion that the Gagdi committee might be grandstanding.
A few examples abound.
There was the Ndidi Elumelu committee probe of the power sector in the Sixth National Assembly. Elumelu is still in House of Representatives.
In the Ninth National Assembly, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo led a committee of the House of Representatives to investigate fraud in the Niger Delta Development Commission, which recorded the infamous ‘off the mic’ episode.
Nothing has been heard of the committee’s prove.
Tunji-Ojo returned to the Green Chamber before President Bola Tinubu appointed him Minister of Interior.
Insisting that the present case must not go the way of others, Olanrewaju Suraj, Chairman, Human and Environmental Developmental Agenda noted that one of the surest ways of establishing the truth was to trace the transaction in the bank, assuming the monies did not exchange hands in cash.
But Gagdi, who grilled the rectors on the matter, asked the Chairman, Committee of Federal Polytechnic Rectors, Dr. Yahaya Bande, what he knew about the corruption scandal.
Bande, Rector of the Federal Polytechnic, Kaura-Namoda, Zamfara State, said neither he nor any of his colleagues had met with the committee prior the public appearance.
Describing the allegation as absurd, Bande maintained that the rectors were not involved in the alleged bribery scandal.
Gagdi then revealed that the panel had petitioned ICPC to investigate the matter, adding that the integrity of the lawmakers must not be tarnished.
“Nobody will blackmail any member of this committee and I will keep quiet as the chairman. The rectors are here. To the best of our ability, we conduct our sitting openly.
“This is the first time they were invited to the National Assembly. You have heard their testimony. We ourselves have written to the investigating agency to investigate this matter.
“Because, you cannot blackmail one of us or all of us by terming this committee a corrupt committee simply because we are discovering irregularities and fraud between agencies of government that are built with taxpayers money and you can come up with something that will scare me as a chairman of this committee. It is not possible,” he stated.
Alluding to the issue of trust deficit in the Legislature, the Chief Executive Officer of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, opined, “The National Assembly has built a notoriety and bad image for itself. Ordinarily, a House Committee is supposed to operate like a court of law.”