Farida's EFCC Will Probe Bankole's N9B Expenditure

Source: OUR REPORTER - thewillnigeria.com

San Francisco, June 21, (THEWILL) – The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole will have to explain to operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC how his leadership spent an alleged N9 billion naira from the N11 billion naira two-year capital budget expenditure of the House.

EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri today in Abuja said the anti-graft agency would constitute a panel of experienced investigators to probe how the funds were spent by the Speaker and other principal officers of the House of Representatives.

Mrs. Waziri gave the assurance while receiving a petition from a delegation of the Progressives Forum in the House led by Mr. Dino Melaye.

"I was talking of setting up a committee of diligent and loyal and hardworking officers to look at this, I was told that you were around. We will receive this petition and we will look at it critically, with professionalism, and we will do our own. And whoever is responsible or is found wanting will be brought to justice.

"The law, as we say, is no respecter of persons. Nobody is above the laws of the land; everybody is equal before the law. And this is what we have been preaching and this is what we have been trying to do. I am particularly happy when people discover that something is wrong, economic crimes-wise, and they take it upon themselves to expose and to bring it to our attention.

"We have been crying out loud that fighting corruption and economic crimes is not the exclusive preserve of the EFCC and ICPC; it is everybody’s fight and it is every Nigerian’s fight."

"For the National Assembly, the House of Representatives, in particular, I have been worried. I think most Nigerians have been very concerned because there have been scandals upon scandals in that House.

"And that is the bastion of democracy and the hope for the common man. And all the citizens that sent you or voted for you, they feel that you are there to protect them. But when we have issues all the time, starting from Salisu Buhari’s certificate, Etteh matter, the car scam and now. I mean it is something that is worrisome.

"I think with this step you have taken and the action that will follow, you need to sanitize the House of Representatives and make it like any other House anywhere in the world, make it a beauty of democracy. I am sure that you have travelled to other Houses and parliaments. The other day I watched, there was a fight also and chairs were flying in the House of Representatives. Was it not so? When you talk of the body of principal officers, we will swing into action and you will see what we are doing.

"I thank you and I wish other Nigerians not to sweep anything under the carpet; it won’t help anyone. If you know or feel that something is wrong somewhere, bring it to our attention and help us to fight this war. It is very tasking, it is very dangerous, very, very tedious but we have to do it. And what is worth doing at all is worth doing well.

"A lot of Nigerians are trooping to India to seek medical help. Just yesterday, India was categorized like us. Nigerians are trooping to Ghana to take our children to schools there. And this is a big shame; we cannot continue like this. And that was why when I got so desperate, I said maybe the only thing is to get a law like death penalty, just like the Chinese. They are many like us and the death penalty is working.

"Some Nigerians really hate Nigeria. If Nigeria was a human being, you can imagine Nigeria would not exist today. Nigeria is so battered. I am talking of various cases we are handling, like Siemens, Halliburton, Daimler and Wilbros. All these cases give us very, very bad image and a bad name that foreign investors are even scared to come in and do anything with us.

"Recently, the UK Government enacted a law on corruption. And I was told that some of our colleagues – when the Secretary of the EFCC went to the US recently – said they have a problem. They said when they come to do business with Nigeria, Nigerian officials must demand for bribe. When they pay, they go back there and American law is waiting for them and so what do they do?

"We have to look inward and do something. Whatever it is that anyone can do, we have to salvage our nation."

While submitting the group’s petition to Mrs. Waziri, Hon. Melaye said, "What we are doing is in tandem with the provision of Section 88(2b) of the Constitution of Nigeria – to expose wastage of public funds, once it has been appropriated by the National Assembly in the budget. This country is not only sick but it is suffering from continental abnormality. What we have today in the House is abuse of public funds.

"N11billion was allocated to the House in 2008/9 budgets for capital projects. Out of this, N2billion was returned to the treasury. But we are asking the House officers to account for how they spent N9billion. He who seeks equity must come with clean hands. If the House is questioning Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) through oversight functions, we need to oversight ourselves so that the public can have confidence in us.

"We have documents to prove that some items approved by the Body of Principal officers of whom the Speaker Dimeji Bankole is the chairman were inflated. A unit of 40-inch LCD TV set was purchased for N525, 000 each, contrary to the price list by the Bureau of Public Procurement and market price of N180, 000 by Samsung.

"While three bullet-proof Mercedes Benz cars were bought for over N50m each, two Range Rovers were bought for N57m each. Before the emergence of Dimeji Bankole, no Speaker of the House used a bulletproof car. We see it as wastage of public funds. Even in the convoy of the President, there is no bulletproof car.

"They are trying to blame the scandal on bureaucracy. But these documents will prove to you that the approving authority of the contracts and items was the Body of Principal Officers of the House, with the Speaker as the chairman. Any other thing that happened is clerical."