By Oji Odu
Jega: Members of the National Assembly are bribe takers.
National Assembly: You nko? You no dey give? In short mention those involved in this act, both the givers and takers.
The above dramatic capture of the bribery allegation war between former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega and members of the National Assembly has not only gone viral, but exposed Nigeria to more ridicule to the outside world in recent times.
Are the nation’s legislators guilty of such despicable act which has become a pathetic tag and bane of the nation and its citizens? Was Jega and his INEC absolved from this act during his tenure? Is the present INEC as constituted not involved in this act, bearing in mind how ruling political parties in states record landslide victories in their Local Government elections?
What moral right has Jega to raise these allegations at this period, and what does he stand to gain by stirring the hornets nest as Nigerians gear up preparations for the 2019 elections?
The former INEC Chairman had on May 28, 2018, at the lecture titled: “Peace Building and Good Governance for Sustainable Development in Nigeria” to mark the 2018 Democracy Day in Abuja , knocked the National Assembly, claiming that its members indulged in high level corruption.
He was particular with committee chairmen in the Senate and House of Representatives who he said engage in the act or bribery with impunity in the course of carrying out oversight functions.
He expressed surprise that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was focusing its anti-corruption war on embezzlement and theft rather than tackling bribe giving and taking in states and federal government institutions.
“The fight against corruption has to be intensified in all its ramifications. There are many successes achieved which are commendable but the magnitude of the problem on the ground is turning these into drops in ocean.
“Members of the National Assembly engage in bribe taking when they pursue Committee works and oversight and I wonder what is happening with intelligence and investigative responsibilities of security agencies in policing our National Assembly. Some chairmen of the committees in the National Assembly have become notorious on this issue of demanding for bribe with impunity,” he said.
But the legislators from the two chambers did not take this allegation lightly, responding with viciousness to the allegation, while alleging that both Jega and his subordinates at INEC were equally guilty, just as some legislators said bribe givers in the executive branch were as guilty as the takers. While some legislators dared the former INEC boss to name those involved,
Senate spokesman, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, noted that Jega was on his own.
“He is entitled to his opinion. All lizards lie prostrate, and only God knows the one that has stomach ache.”
Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, while dismissing it, said: “I do not believe that Professor Jega is the type who would make a frivolous statement. Besides, it is not a new allegation. The guilt lies with those who demand and those who give bribes.”
In his reaction,Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Water Resources, Aliyu Pategi representing Edu/Moro/Patagi Federal Constituency of Kwara State, included ministers, and other members of the executive arm of government among those he said should have been indicted by Jega.
“There is always a giver and a taker. “Let’s assume that it is true that some legislators collect bribe; it simply means that the ministries, departments, and agencies in the executive arm are so corrupt that they offer bribes so they won’t be named and shamed for their stealing of government funds. “Moreover, a good number of ministries departments and agencies run away from parliamentary scrutiny as a result of their misdeeds. “Since he was the head of INEC, a commission under the executive, he should have named the bribe takers and givers. Did he offer legislators bribes as INEC chairman? “The guilty party is the giver that seeks to induce legislators from carrying out their assignment in ensuring value for money for every Kobo expended by executive bodies,” he said.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, on his part, regretted that Jega was suffering from self-delusion, believing that Jega must have been talking out of experience from his many transactions with those bribe takers.
“Is he generalising or talking out of practical experience because of his many transactions with politicians, if I may ask?” If I may ask again, when he was Chairman of INEC, how many budgets did he defend, and how much bribe did he offer, because both the giver and receiver are guilty of the same offence.
“Oversight functions are designed to uncover money not properly spent and to ensure such monies appropriated are spent in accordance with our fiscal policies and purchases made met requirements of our Procurement Act. “During such functions how much did the Prof give out because the exercise is meant to uncover poorly managed appropriated monies?” he asked.
The Magazine’s findings recall that in 2017, INEC suspended 205 of its staff over alleged involvement in the N23 billion bribery, corruption and money laundering during the 2015 general election.
Cases of one former national commissioner, five former Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) have been referred to the Presidency and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further necessary action.
In his explanation on the decisions reached by the INEC management, one of the National Commissioners, Mohammed Haruna, said out of the over N23 billion which the EFCC reportedly said was used to influence the elections, the disciplinary committee established that N3,046,829,000 was received by the INEC in 16 states.
Haruna said additional 80 staff of the commission whose names were not among those indicted by the EFCC probe report, were invited for questioning by the INEC panel thereby bringing the total number of staff to 182.
“Based of the their level of involvement in the crime, 205 of the affected staff will be placed on interdiction or suspension and placed on half salary pending the outcome of the prosecution in court.
“The commission today considered the report of its expanded appointment, promotion and disciplinary committee on the EFCC interim report on the bribery and money laundering charges during the 2015 general election.
“You may recall that late last year, the commission received an interim report from the EFCC detailing allegations against 202 serving and retired INEC officials and staff in 16 states of the federation.
However, in a chat with the magazine, Ajiboye Akanbi, a political analyst regretted what he described as national shame and ridicule Nigerian leaders are always exposing the people. “ I am not in support of any of them. Both Jega and the legislators are bribe takers and givers, and should be held accountable.
“ I don’t think Jega has any moral right to accuse these legislators of bribery while his hands are not clean. Was he not there when under-aged allegedly voted in many areas in the north that gave the present administration victory? He should know that there is honour among thieves,” he said.
For Kaliwo Johnson, a Civil Servant: “ This bribery giving and taking war between Jega and the nations legislators is clarion call for Nigerians to call for their heads, and seek more effective ways of dealing with this shame of the Nigerian nation.