They took the matter to the EFCC (before the sitting). That is part of the issue the majority of members were opposed to; before you take internal matter out, you must have explored the procedures laid down within the Chamber – that was what they Progressives refuse to do and that was what annoyed the majority of members.
Certainly, the last has not been heard of the free – for – all fight that disrupted the House of Representatives’ sitting of Tuesday, June 22, 2010. Some eleven members of the House who call themselves “The Progressives” had given Speaker Dimeji Bankole a 7 – day ultimatum to resign over an alleged misappropriation of a whooping N9 billion, failure of which incriminating documents on the issue will be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation, and possible prosecution of the Speaker.
The Hon. Dino Melaye – led group made good their threat as they handed over the alleged incriminating documents to the anti – graft body at the expiration of the ultimatum. The House in its Tuesday, 22nd June sitting the first, after its two week recess, fired back and pronounced a year long suspension on the ‘rebels’, accusing them of not exhausting the internal mechanisms of the House before making the matter public. In the process of moving the motion for the suspension, the progressives resisted and ‘hell was let loose’! So for yet another time, the Honorable men and women of the House conducted themselves in a most dishonorable and disorderly manner!
Hon. P. Kehinde Odebunmi witnessed it all. He sat demurely behind the mover of the suspension motion while the free -for -all fight ensued. Odebunmi told Tide On Sunday what he saw and why he felt strongly that the Progressives goofed in their approach to the issues at stake. “You can see that the few members (Progressives) are the aggressors, not the majority of members. If you have an issue (allegation), you bring it before the House – you know the rules (of the House). If you want to impeach a Speaker, you know how to go about it, you have to get the support of 2/3 majority. You can’t say because you want the Speaker removed, so the Speaker must be removed; if you don’t carry along The Majority of the members, you can’t succeed!
“They took the matter to the EFCC (before the sitting). That is part of the issue the majority of members were opposed to; before you take internal matter out, you must have explored the procedures laid down within the Chamber – that was what they Progressives refuse to do and that was what annoyed the majority of members. Like I told someone; ‘You don’t wash your dirty linen in public’; “it’s a simple adage that everybody is familiar with”, he said.
Hon. Odebunmi continued with his explanation of what controversy and face – off that engulfed the otherwise hallowed Chamber of the House of Representatives: “You don’t wash your dirty linen in public, unless and of course if they don’t allow you to wash it outside. But you must first of all attempt to wash it inside before you wash it outside. Then, you can say. ‘They didn’t allow me to wash it inside , since I need to wash it, I’ve brought it outside, give me water to wash it. So that’s the issue; that’s the procedure!”
Tide On Sunday asked Hon. Odebunmi to say categorically as an insider, if there is any issue involving N9 billion in the House, as alleged by “The Progressives”, Odebunmi was tactical as he told our correspondent that it is the House Leadership, National Assembly Management and office of the Auditor – General of the Federation that should know. “Well, I’m not a part of Management and I’m not a part of Leadership. We all know the prerogative to know lies with the head of an organisation, House of Representatives to deal with issues of organising the resources of the House”.
He opined that even an association or club has its management that manages its accounts and what is required is for the management to issue Statement of Accounts at the end of the period, adding that in the case of the House of Representatives it is even government or public money that is involved, which made it mandatory for the office of the Auditor – General of the Federation to audit the accounts and uncover misappropriation, if any.
“You have the Auditor – General’s office that audits all government’s expenditures so the Auditor – General has not raised any query on this. We are not the ones that suppose to audit the accounts of government”, he opined, adding “but again, that does not say (mean) you cannot have information to show that some leaders have not done well’.
He contended that like in the case of Bankole’s predecessor, Patricia Ette (Mrs.), what was required was for the aggrieved members of the House to bring their grievances to the House, rather than involve the press and anti – graft body, like “The Progressives” did reason. “Because the money has been allocated for the House use, so if you have information that something has gone wrong, then you bring the issue to the House. There’s Ethics and Privileges Committee of the House where all the petitions are directed you can bring it up inform of the petition and refer it to the Ethics and Privileges Committee. They’ll come up with their own report and the House consider it and take position before you now start sending matters to the EFCC”.
The issue of the N9 billion scam allegedly involving the House leadership brought to fore a related issue the N2.3billion car scam that has been in the cooler since last year. Like the current allegation, the Leadership, under Rt. Hon. Bankole was severally accused of diverting a whopping N400million from the N2.3billion that the cars were purportedly bought for distribution to the 360 members of the House for “Committee work”. The dust raised by the car scam was such that attracted Human Rights Lawyer, Festus Keyamo who dragged the House Leadership to Court and testified before the House Committee investigating the scam.
Tide On Sunday asked Hon. Odebunmi to comment on it, since the issue refused to die and has now resurfaced, in the light of the ragging N9billion controversy involving the same House Leadership. He points to the EFCC, which has a petition on the matter and was investigating it at the time.
Odebunmi told Tide On Sunday point – blank “I don’t like to pre-empt or say somebody is guilty until I’ve seen evidence. And since EFCC is the appropriate government agency to handle such issue, we should wait for the report of the EFCC before we start to comment because even when we’re talking about the issue, I remember that there was an allegation that somebody forged a document in order to prove that there was a fraud. The EFCC should investigate and come up with their own findings and position that’s what we’ll act on and take our position.
Odebunmi also denied knowledge of another allegation of financial impropriety involving theHouse that they shared over N2billion for Democracy Day, 2010 celebration, saying, “Well, I don’t know. I have not received any money for celebration of Democracy Day”.
Justus Awaji, Abuja