$9.3m arms deal: $20,000 bribery scandal shakes House
As the nation continues to ponder on the circumstances surrounding the $9.3 million cash seized by the South African government, there was confusion for the second time in the House of Representatives, yesterday, following allegations of a $50,000 bribe to members of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to suppress a house inquest into the cash seizure.
The uproar started when a member of the House, Rep. Ali Madaki, APC, Kano leaked the story of the alleged bribe to the PDP members. Madaki, however, confessed that the bribe amount was $20,000.00 and not the $50,000 as reported by a national newspaper, yesterday.
The allegations were described as an embarrassment, unparliamentary and an act of blackmail by the PDP deputy leader in the House, Rep. Leo Ogor. The House however directed its committee to investigate the fresh scam allegation and report within two weeks.
The controversy started at the resumed plenary of the House, yesterday, when chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business, Rep. Albert Sam-Tsokwa (PDP, Taraba), raised a point of order bordering on the breach of his privileges. While citing Order 8, Rule 20 of the House Rules, the Taraba lawmaker complained that he was embarrassed by stories in some national dailies on the walk-out by the All Progressives Congress, APC, members at the previous day’s sitting and the insinuation that PDP members in the House were given $50,000 each to stall debate on the motion to investigate the $9.3 million botched arms deal in South Africa.
Sam-Tsokwa said: “As the House chairman of the Rules and Business committee, this issue is not to my knowledge. No money was received by any member of my party or myself.”
Although, Sam-Tsokwa did not mention anybody’s name, he alleged that the story was the handiwork of a member of the House, adding that the news story breached his privilege as a member of the House.
Justifying the ruling of the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha the previous day, which led to the disagreement on the floor, he explained that: “we are all aware that infrastructure motion can be raised, seconded and voted upon. This is not the first time issues like this have been brought to the floor of the House and rejected.”
He submitted that the protest and subsequent walk-out on the House by APC lawmakers was uncalled for and condemnable and consequently prayed the House to mandate the Ethics and Privileges Committee to investigate Madaki’s allegations.
Ruling on the matter, the Deputy Speaker referred the matter to the committee but cautioned his colleagues that the House “is at trying times” and “should be careful as circumstances like this could lead to casualties. It is not my wish that such should happen. It is regrettable that despite the fact that I went extra mile to take the motion, there was still a walk-out,” he said.
Upon the Deputy Speaker’s ruling, Madaki stood up on a point of order to speak. But his effort was igreeted with jeers from some members which created another pandemonium on the floor. Although, Madaki was consistently shouted down by his colleagues, the minority whip, Samson Osagie (APC, Edo) intervened and pleaded that Madaki be allowed to speak.
Madaki confessed that he was the person that broke the bribery allegations to the press to the bewilderment of members,. He confirmed that he told a journalist that he had it on good authority “that PDP members were given $20,000 each.”
He maintained that what he told the journalist over the telephone about the bribe was that he was aware that each of the PDP members was bribed $20,000 but not $50,000 as was reported.
Following Madaki’s confession, the House was again enveloped in a state of rowdiness for about 10 minutes before order was eventually restored, necessitating the Deputy Speaker to refer the matter to the Ethics and Privileges Committee for investigation.
When contacted on the issue, Deputy Leader, Rep Ogor said: “The whole episode is embarrassing and disgusting. How can somebody fabricate such lies?
“We voted on the matter and the nays carried the day and you still staged a walk-out to protest that you were defeated,” Ogor wondered.
“I found that publication embarrassing and as far as I am concerned it is pure blackmail. It is totally unacceptable and unparliamentary.
“People should know that before you go to the press and make such an allegation you must have your facts as nothing of that nature even happened and I challenge the lawmaker to come up with his facts.
“For the fact that APC was defeated was not enough reason for them to walk out and to add insult to it they brought the allegation that the same PDP members collected $50,000.”