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House Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, in trouble

Posted by By Chiawo Nwankwo, Victor Sam and Olalekan Adetayo on 2007/08/23 | Views: 867 |

House Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, in trouble

Members of the opposition in the House of Representatives on Tuesday faulted the award of N628m contracts for the renovation of the official residences of the Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, and her deputy, Alhaji Babangida Nguroje, and purchase of 12 cars.

Members of the opposition in the House of Representatives on Tuesday faulted the award of N628m contracts for the renovation of the official residences of the Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, and her deputy, Alhaji Babangida Nguroje, and purchase of 12 cars.

The aggrieved members, mainly from the Action Congress and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, said they were not part of the decision to award the contracts.

They said they would raise a committee to review of the circumstances surrounding the contracts in order to take a common stand when the House resumes in September.

The position of the opposition was made known by the Deputy Chief Whip of the House, Alhaji Suleiman Kawu, at a news conference in Abuja.

Kawu said that no principal officer from the minority caucus was represented at the Tenders’ Board meeting where the decision to award the contracts was taken.

He admitted that there was nothing wrong in renovating the affected residences because the House rules allowed it.

He, however, added that the vexatious issues were the amount involved and the sidelining of principal officers in the House who are members of the opposition.

He said, “All the principal officers ought to be at the meeting, but unfortunately, the minority wing was sidelined at the board session that approved the contacts.

“We in the opposition would not condone any form of corruption at whatever level and we want to assure our members that we were not at the meeting.

“We were not invited and we did not take part in that decision.

“We know that the residence of the deputy speaker was completed sometime ago, and it has not been occupied. Therefore, it may require some renovation.

“However, we shall convene a meeting of the minority caucus, which comprises the ANPP and the AC in the House, immediately after resumption and take a common position on the matter.”

He said the opposition would resist corruption in the House like it did on the third term agenda.

Kawu explained that the reaction of the opposition was not influenced by how the committee appointments were made by the Speaker.

He said the AC and the ANPP members were motivated by the higher ideal of entrenching transparency and accountability in public office.

He said, “We in the opposition have no grudge with the composition of the House committees, and as such, we will continue to exercise our functions as representatives of the people.

“We will continue to do only those things that will be in the best interest of Nigerians.”

On his part, Mr. Halims Agoda said that there would be ‘earthquake and continuous fight in the House’ if the facts and figures about the contracts were true.

Agoda, who had on Monday briefed the press on the subject, added that the point at issue was a moral struggle, which would beget ‘subsequent actions once we resume.’

Agoda expressed concern that the leadership of the House did not deem it proper to attend the just-concluded policy retreat, which the Federal Government held for ministers and special advisers.

The President of the Senate, and other principal officers of the chamber also attended the retreat.

“The said companies that collected the contracts need to be examined to see whether they are genuine. It is a crusade I intend to pursue to a legitimate end. We will come to the floor of the House to insist that everyone involved in the case should be penalised,” he added.

Asked whether he was referring to a move to impeach the Speaker, Agoda, a lawyer and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, said he was careful in choosing his words.

He said that newsmen were at liberty to use whatever word they chose.

But the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Mr. Dino Melaye, alleged that the attacks on Etteh were sponsored by those who were yet to come to terms with the emergence of a female speaker.

He said the allegation was being perpetrated to destabilise the House leadership, adding that the Speaker had decided to respond to these attacks with dignified silence.

Melaye said the decision to use the House funds to renovate the residences was influenced by the Federal Capital Territory Administration’s power of attorney to carry out the task.

In justifying the N238, 852,192 set aside for the renovation of the Speaker’s residence, he said, the House was a big complex that comprises three units of three-bedroom chalets, one unit of two bedrooms, an ADC chalet and servant quarters.

Apparently referring to the residence of the President of the Senate, which he never mentioned, Melaye said Julius Berger collected N400m to renovate a similar residence.

A letter from the FCDA, dated June 15, to the Senate Leader dealt with the furnishing of the residences of the President of the Senate, his deputy, Speaker and her deputy.

Signed by its Executive Secretary, Alhaji Mohammed Al-hassan, and copied to the Clerk of the National Assembly, the letter did not address demolition or renovation of the House.

Pressed by newsmen to explain the source of the funds since it was not budgeted for, Melaye explained that the money was moved from some capital vote items.

But Agoda insisted that it was illegal to do so, as there was no virement since the House had not taken a decision to take over the responsibility of the FCDA.

A breakdown of the contract for the renovation of the Speaker’s residence showed that demolition of a section of the building will cost N14.5m; finishing, N35.4m; and installation of Close Circuit Television and a multiple intercom system, N30m.

External work will cost N64.2m; fittings and fixtures, N35m; metal detector, N10m; furnishing, N52.5m; and curtains, N10m.

For the Deputy Speaker’s house, furnishing only will cost N55.2m.

Ten units of Toyota Land Cruiser will cost N123m and two 320 Mercedes Benz cars will cost N49.6m.

Meanwhile, the AC has called for an urgent probe into the controversial contract and the purchase of 12 units of luxury cars for Etteh and Nguroje.

The party said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that such ‘wastage belies the sub-human existence faced by millions of Nigerians.’

The statement, which was made available to our correspondents on Tuesday, said the House should find out who approved the huge expenditure, whether the award of the contracts to three firms followed due process and whether the renovation was budgeted for.

The statement reads in part, “We have been told that this is an era of transparency, but we wonder what is transparent in the award of huge contracts worth N628m to three firms through the notice board of the National Assembly and without the knowledge of most members of the House.”

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Comments (6)

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