Strong indications yesterday emerged that a robust plan by a cabal is underway to remove Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, from office.
The cabal, National Mirror gathered, is planning to ride on the alleged $3m bribery scandal involving the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Hon. Faruk Lawan, to achieve the goal
Tambuwal’s biggest sin, according to National Assembly sources, is the alleged insistence by the House leadership to queue behind the majority of Nigerians early this year, to fight President Goodluck Jonathan’s fuel subsidy hike policy and its tendency to expose corruption in high places.
The impeccable source which blamed the plot on both the Presidency and amongst some aggrieved oil marketers that benefitted yesterday alerted that series of moves would be made to actualise the plan in the next few days, except frustrated.
Some of the aggrieved members of the House are being enrolled into the plot. The House leadership is however meeting with his pointmen to forestall the plot.
Tambuwal, however, said he is not worried about any impeachment plot. “I have not done anything wrong or acted against the constitution. The issue of impeachment is just diversionary. Speaker Tambuwal is not worry. His only worry is on how to continue to deliver services to Nigeria,” Imam Imam, the Special Adviser on Media to the Speaker told National Mirror last night.
He said the House leadership is committed to transparency and would ensure that justice is done to the bribery allegation.
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, also raised the alarm over the plot.
CISLAC, in a statement issued yesterday and signed by its Executive Director, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that “an offence allegedly committed by an individual member should not be used as an excuse to create another crisis in the House of Representatives.”
The statement which reads in part said: “If indeed those agitating for the use of an individual’s alleged misdeed to oust the present set of leadership of the House are sincere, they should as well call for the resignation of President Jonathan for overseeing a regime in which trillions of naira was siphoned in various scams, including the N1.7trn subsidy fraud.
“CISLAC suspects complicity on the part of the Presidency in the current move to remove the current leadership by sponsoring some faceless groups to call for the resignation of the Speaker.
“This move, the organisation suspects is aimed at achieving a two-fold agenda of discarding the recommendations emanating from the fuel subsidy probe committee’s report as well as remove the leadership of the lower chamber which the executive had considered too independent and assertive.”
The House leadership, according CISLAC, should remain firm, committed and should not allow any intimidation and blackmail to deter it from performing its constitutional role.
“Lawmaking, representation, constituency outreach and oversight/ probe are functions of the National Assembly as enshrined in the constitution. Therefore, no amount of threat and intimidation should blackmail credible lawmakers from exercising their legislative duties,” the group charged.
CISLAC, however, called on the House leadership to categorically come out and dissociate itself from any wrongdoing and let any member involved in any unethical conduct face wrath of the law as it has done in the case of Hon. Herman Hembe former chairman of the capital market probe.
However, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati said that people should not drag the name of the Presidency into the matter.
According to him: “Nobody has mentioned the Presidency, people should not drag the Presidency into the matter.”
He explained that nobody has implicated anybody in the Presidency.
Abati stated that all the fact of the matter are already in the public domain and the police have waded into it while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as well as the House of Representatives itself are investigating the matter.
“Nobody dragged the name of the Presidency into it. It has no connection with the Presidency. The matter is already being investigated, the security agencies have waded into it, people should await the outcome of the investigation and not drag the Presidency into something that does not concern the President,” Abati told National Mirror.
The Presidential spokesman wondered how anyone can drag the name of the Presidency into the bribery allegation when it was the same Presidency that had ordered the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to ask the EFCC to act and investigate the report of the House Committee probe on oil subsidy and sanction people.
In the meantime, the House of Representatives yesterday announced an emergency session scheduled for tomorrow, cutting short its three-week recess to address allegations that Lawan took a $620,000 bribe from Zenon, an oil marketing firm.
A member of Business and Rules Committee told National Mirror that the emergency plenary will effect the suspension of Lawan and seven other members of the committee that probed the subsidy regime,
“You don’t expect that the House will fold its arms and let his (Lawan) committee to continue with its job. They have to go. They would have to because you cannot be a judge in your case,” he said.
The emergency session was announced yesterday by the Clerk of the lower chamber, Mr. Special M. A. Sani-Omolori.
“This is to inform all Honourable members of the House of Representatives that the House would reconvene to hold a plenary session on Friday June 15, 2012 at 10a.m. prompt. Honourable members are advised to take note and attend promptly,” Sani-Omolori said.
The embattled lawmaker failed to appear before police authorities yesterday in Abuja.
Lawan was expected to counter or confirm Otedola’s allegation before the police yesterday but as at 6:30p.m. our correspondent learnt that the lawmaker did not honour police invitation.
Although it was not clear if he sent words to the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar on his inability to show up, it was learnt that the police is yet undecided on the next line of action to take against Lawan.
Consequently, a police source said the force will wait till Friday to decide on whether to force Lawan to appear.
The source dismissed speculations that the lawmaker was declared wanted yesterday but said if after several invitations Lawan refuses to turn himself in, then the force will be justified in taking further actions against him. The officer who is part of the investigation team said: “No warrant has been issued. We have not declared him wanted. This is democracy and we are very methodical in handling issues like these.”
Although the Force Deputy Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, declined to comment on the issue, it was learnt last night that Lawan has bluntly refused to hand over the sum of $620, 000 purportedly received from Otedola.
“I do not know his reason but, like I said before now, he has not handed over the money to the police. He considers it as an exhibit and I think he would prefer to hand it over to the Acting IGP personally,” the source stated.
There was also report yesterday that the House Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, may have more than passing knowledge on the $3m bribery scandal.
The report alleged that Ihedioha, who presided over consideration of the subsidy report, knew about the bribe. “This explains why he called on Lawan to speak on item 29 during the consideration of the subsidy report. When he was recognised, Lawan then requested the deletion of Otedola’s Zenon Oil and two others and thus absolved them from any wrong doing,” an online publication said.
“Ihedioha thereafter put the question and it was carried; a decision that is making some members to now argue that the deputy speaker might have been briefed about the million dollars in which $620,000 was paid to Lawan as instalment,” it added.
But an aide of the deputy speaker, who preferred anonymity, denied Ihedioha’s involvement in the matter.
The aide said: “Under the Rules of the House, consideration of committee reports is usually presided over by the deputy speaker as chairman of the Committee of the Whole. During such consideration, the Chairman of the committee whose report is being considered is often recognised by the presiding officer to make clarifications, further explanations and amendments as the case may be especially when and where questions are raised by honourable members.