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OBJ plotting to derail Buhari’s govt, Reps allege

•Says he introduced corruption to NASS •SERAP calls for his probe

THE House of Representatives, on Thursday, fired back at the former president, Chief  Olusegun Obasanjo, over his corruption allegation against the lawmakers, accusing him of being the grandfather of corruption in the country.

Obasanjo had, while delivering his speech, entitled: “Nigeria Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Governance and Accountability,” at the First Akintola Williams Annual Lecture in Lagos, on Wednesday, accused the National Assembly of being unarmed robbers.

According to the former president, “the National Assembly cabal of today is worse than any cabal that anybody may find anywhere in our national governance system at any time. Members of the National Assembly pay themselves allowances for staff and offices they do not have or maintain.”

However, while addressing newsmen in Abuja, on Thursday, chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Honourable Abdulrazak Namdas, said the House would ordinarily not have joined issues with the former president, “as he has held an office that deserves respect and reverence.”

He then said the House was left with no option but to correct the former president, “because of the material mis-statement of facts, outright lies and falsehoods, and mischievous innuendo introduced in his statement.”

While debunking the allegation levelled against the National Assembly, Namdas said “we have repeatedly maintained that there was no ‘padding’ of the 2016 Appropriation Act, which is a legitimate document passed by the National Assembly, authenticated by the clerk to the National Assembly as provided in the Acts Authentication Act and assented to by Mr President

“It is most unfortunate that a former president of Chief Obasanjo’s stature would allow himself to be hoodwinked and procured by a renegade member of the House, who embarked on massive propaganda and lies just because he was removed from office.

“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no crime that was committed by the National Assembly by exercising its constitutional function of appropriation. If Chief Obasanjo has an issue with the execution of the 2016 budget or indeed other Appropriation Acts, he should direct his anger elsewhere.”

On the allegation by the former president that National Assembly budget was high, the House spokesperson said “by all standards, the National Assembly is grossly underfunded and is hampered from effectively and legitimately carrying out its constitutionally assigned functions.”

According to him, “the National Assembly budget funds a bureaucracy of about 5,000 civil servants. It has some other agencies under its preview such as the National Assembly Service Commission with its own staff of about 500, even the Public Complaints Commission is now a parastatal of the National Assembly.

“The cost implications of running the National Assembly is high because of the nature of our presidential democracy. Then, of course, there are 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives, that require proper equipment to function effectively.

“They require adequate travel and transport support to carry out legislative functions. The National Assembly also has buildings and offices to build and maintain. National Assembly staff and members attend conferences, trainings, seminars to keep abreast of legislative developments worldwide. The activities are very encompassing and expensive.”

Firing back at the former president, the House spokesperson said “it is also unbecoming of a former president to quote figures of sums of money that are factually incorrect. No member of the House of Representatives receives N10 million every month.

“The salaries and allowances of members of the House are as determined by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

“Of course, further sums of money are spent as running costs, that is, the cost of running the office of a member.

“If a minister, chief executive or director in a ministry travels on official duties, for instance, do you include the cost of his ticket and accommodation as part of his salary or allowances? Does the cost of stationeries and maintenance of equipment, like computers used in their offices, form part of their salaries and allowances?

“These are some of the costs that must be taken care of by the National Assembly and the media calls these costs ‘jumbo pay’. For goodness sake, the National Assembly is an arm of government, not just an ordinary agency of government.

“The budget of many agencies in the executive branch are indeed higher than the current budget of the National Assembly that is an arm of government. Examples abound, CBN, NNPC, NCC etc. Allowances paid to even junior staff of some of these government agencies cannot be compared to what members of National Assembly enjoy,” he insisted.

Namdas, however, said “undoubtedly, the former president is understandably angry with the National Assembly as an institution, having foiled his ambition for a third term in office, even after trying to corrupt the members with a bribe of at least N50 million each.

“Lest we forget, the person who introduced corruption to the National Assembly is Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. He birthed the Fourth Republic National Assembly with corrupt practices from day one; indeed the first day of the Republic. He bribed both PDP, ANPP and AD legislators on their inauguration in 1999 to vote against the majority candidate of PDP, Dr Chuba Okadigbo. That was how Senator Evan Enwerem became Senate President.

“The list of his corrupt acts while in office is endless. Unquestionably, he is the greatest corrupt person ever to hold office in Nigeria. He remains the grandfather of corruption in Nigeria and lacks the moral authority to discuss corruption or indeed abuse of office in Nigeria as he remains the most corrupt Nigerian on record.”

The House president also alleged that the former president was only trying to bring down President Muhammadu Buhari government with his utterances.

According to him, “it is unfortunate that he has started his very familiar method of bringing down governments. He did it to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Buhari, General Babangida and he attempted to bring down General Abacha before he imprisoned him for treason; he made frantic efforts to derail the government of President Yar’Adua when he couldn’t use him. He supported President Goodluck Jonathan, but when he refused to take dictation, he turned against him.

“He supported President Buhari, but since he has sensed that Nigeria is having economic difficulties under him, he has pounced to derail his government.

“This is a man with unlimited access to President Buhari. Or is it because he has not appointed all his cronies as requested? We may never know.”

Meanwhile, a rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked Justice Walter Onnoghen, the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), to urgently appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations of corruption in the spending of $16 billion on electricity by the government of former President Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.

SERAP, in a statement on Thursday, said the request was brought pursuant to Section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.

“We believe your urgent intervention will contribute to improving the integrity of government and public confidence and trust in their government.

“It would also serve as a vehicle to further the public’s perception of fairness and thoroughness, and to avert even the most subtle of influences that may appear in an investigation of highly-placed executive officials.”

SERAP noted that lack of access to uninterrupted energy/electricity services had forced many citizens to use and collect frequently contaminated surface water for drinking and household uses.

“The Mambilla power plant was envisaged to generate 2,600 megawatts of electricity. According to the hearing,the contracts awarded for the Kainji, Egbin, Afam and Ugehli power stations were never executed but the PHCN, in its report to the hearing on how it spent its budgetary allocations between 1999 and 2007, quoted the contracts as part of the work done.

“The hearing also revealed that there were about nine of such contracts, totalling $142 million,” the statement signed by Timothy Adewale, a Senior Staff Counsel in SERAP said.