Tambuwal’s Federal House of Scams and Scandals!

Since its inauguration in the Fourth Republic, the Federal House of Representatives has been a theatre of absurd happenings; while there have been series of incisive and intellectual debates, there has also been a number of chair throwing fights while on several occasions debates have degenerated into fisticuffs, with a member dying during one of such fights. Fraudulent activities have also become part of the things the lower legislative arm of Africa’s most populous has to cope with.
Across the geo-political zones in the country, lawmakers are seen as people feeding fat on the country’s purse without doing the jobs they have been paid to do. To make matters worse, the remuneration of the lawmakers has been a subject of debates with many Nigerians clamouring for a reduction or even a total scrapping of the lower legislature. Constituents are gradually losing faith in their legislators. The general belief around the country is that each lawmaker is there as a representative of himself and his family, not of the constituency.
Not a few Nigerians wonder if the leadership of the House is jinxed; the leaders are always enmeshed in one controversy or the other. The issues started with Salisu Buhari, the first occupant of the seat of the Honourable Speaker, right after Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999. His “Toronto” certificate forgery scandal is still fresh in the memories of both the political class and observers. In time past, the House of Representatives has also had to cope with scandals including the N 628 million renovation saga in the days of Mrs Patricia Etteh, as well as the billions her successor, Dimeji Bankole was alleged to have blown on inflated contracts.
Since Nigeria returned to democratic rule, people in the country’s vast population have had reasons to compare and assess the quality of leadership of the House. Incidentally, many have described the Waziri Tambuwal led House as the worst in terms of lack of seriousness and corruption The leadership qualities of the Honourable Speaker has been called to question over some of the decisions of the House under his leadership, especially by people who feel the House lacks direction. . One of such was the direct involvement of the House in events in the Rivers State House of Assembly. The House raised a committee which suspended existing laws.
In terms of corruption, none before it has beaten the Tambuwal led House in the open display of corrupt tendencies. Some have opined that the corruption scarred House is only a reflection of the calibre of its leadership and the members.
Not a few Nigerians have become convinced that the House is one that dabbles mostly into matters that may not be of direct concern to the legislative duties of members. The feeling most Nigerians have now is that the House of Reps has abandoned legislative duties and have replaced the principal function of the House with oversight functions. While many bills are waiting to be passed, Honourable members are busy setting up probe panels. Meanwhile, it has been observed that some of the lawmakers involved in probing anomalies have not sponsored any bill; some have not even initiated any motion.
While the House continues to probe corruption, real and alleged, Nigerians are becoming more convinced that such probes are avenues for members to make money for themselves. Hence the eagerness to probe every available allegation of financial impropriety at the expense of legislative duties. Corruption in the House has also taken a new turn in the House since Tambuwal assumed the leadership position. One of the instances that gave rise to such beliefs was the fuel subsidy probe. While Nigerians were eagerly waiting for justice to be done to those who had defrauded the country of over a trillion Naira in subsidized funds for petroleum products, right under the Honourable Speaker’s nose, Hon Farouk Lawan was caught in a bribery scandal that shocked the whole country. The Kano State born lawmaker received a total of $ 600,000 in bribes to strike out the name of a company from his committee’s report. Never before had a federal lawmaker been caught live on camera demanding for and receiving bribe. The reputation of the House has been brought to an all time low. And based on the principle of being “innocent until proven guilty”, Farouk Lawan still enjoys all the benefits of being a member of the House of Representatives.
It is also being said that the country’s lower legislative arm has seemingly abandoned its principal lawmaking function as it now usurps the functions of other agencies, delving into allegations of fraud. The jobs of anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) seem to have been taken over by the House of Reps which now investigates frauds.
Once a fraud is heard of in the country, the House takes it upon itself to investigate. Committees are given mandates of “getting to the root of the matter”. Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, while Nigerians continue to wait for the House to make meaningful legislations, all they get to hear about are probe panels.
Sadly, despite the probe panels set up to make recommendations on such matters, the number of unresolved scandals keeps mounting by the day. The Haliburton and Siemens scandals as well as the Power Sector probe are some of those that readily come to mind. The multi-billion pension scam too was probed with nothing to show.
A more recent one was the fuel subsidy probe that many Nigerians watched and followed keenly only for them to be disappointed when the hunter suddenly became the hunted as the leadership of the House Committee became enmeshed in a scandalous bribe demand. Things almost took a similar turn in the probe of the Securities and Exchange Commission when Ms Arunma Oteh alleged that Herman Hembe, the Chairman of the Committee involved in the investigation made some frivolous demands including a first class flight ticket. The panel concluded its sessions and Ms Oteh went back to her duties while the Honourable members of the panel too went back to their chambers quietly.
The Honourable Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah too faced a House Committee over the purchase of two bullet-proof BMW vehicles at N 255 million.
The House of Representatives seems to have beaten the record of the Nigerian Police Force in terms of corruption. The House of Representatives which used to be known for its vibrancy back in time has become smeared with all sorts of frivolities.
It may not be wrong to say the House of Reps has failed to meet the expectations of most Nigerians.
The formulation of laws and policies that affect the average Nigerians have since been jettisoned for other things, thus leaving the interests of the electorate unprotected. It has been found out that oversight functions over Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is where the “action” is as money cannot be made from sponsoring bills. Findings have also shown that most of the Ministries have to grease palms in order to have their budgets approved on an annual basis. Little wonder legislative functions have since been overshadowed.
While the House of Reps continues its “probing functions”, its members might have to be reminded that “he that comes to equity must come with clean hands”. A probe of the House itself will no doubt yield cans of worms, especially with many Honourables in the mould of Farouk Lawan still undiscovered.
Nigerians have been saddened by the facts that the probes achieve nothing while precious time is wasted on probes that have become mere television shows. That has led to the belief that such probes are money spinners for the legislators involved.
Findings have shown that the influence and might of office are tools capable of being used in exploiting those being probed. And once it is known that the matter could be “closed” within the committee, the person being probed won’t mind parting with anything just to stay out of prison.
Ironically, most probes embarked upon by the House of Reps end up in scandals, especially where the probes were orchestrated by reward-seeking politicians. The Ndudi Elumelu, Herman Hembe and Farouk Lawan experiences have gone a long way to confirm fears that probes are tools for getting attention from the executive arm of government as well as extorting funds from those being probed. It may not be wrong therefore to liken the legislators to gamekeepers who always end up as poachers.

Author: NewsAdmin

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