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419 lawmakers:The full story

Posted by By Ismail Omipidan, Abuja on 2008/02/02 | Views: 853 |

419 lawmakers:The full story


Senator Nuhu Aliyu, former Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), chairman Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence has been in the Senate since 1999. Although he is not given to frivolities, this is about the third term he would be making allegations that would later fall flat on its face.

How the mafia cowed Nuhu Aliyu
ē Iím sorry, but I know it is true Ė Aliyu


Senator Nuhu Aliyu, former Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), chairman Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence has been in the Senate since 1999. Although he is not given to frivolities, this is about the third term he would be making allegations that would later fall flat on its face.

For instance in April 2005, unprovoked, the Minna-born Senator rose at the floor of the Senate to cast aspersions on his colleagues by calling them murderers, crooks and 419ners.

Interestingly, as at the time he was making that allegation, a murder case was still hanging on one of the Senators. And as if to confirm his allegations then, another Senator was quizzed in November 2005 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions (EFCC) for allegedly swindling one Inter-link Associates and Company Limited of N25 million.

Again, at the heat of the third term debate, Aliyu came up with another allegation of corrupt enrichment against the then Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu. He accused Mantu among other things of defrauding the Senate, including sharing dollars to Senators to push the third term project.

Following the allegation, a motion was moved for Mantuís immediate suspension, but David Mark (now Senate President) then a Senate member saved the day, as his argument swayed the Senate to go into voting to decide whether Mantu should stand suspended while investigation was on or he could remain in office and face the Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee.

At the voting stage, there was a tie. But the then Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani voted in favour of Mantu retaining his seat and facing the probe panel.
Expectedly, Mantu denied all the allegations against him. But Aliyu also disappointed the panel and the National Assembly Correspondents who had thought he had a killer evidence to nail Mantu, when he told the panel that most of the allegations he made were based on hearsay. And to even make that revelation, he had to request the panel to excuse the journalists from the public hearing.

To add more twist to the drama, the Senator at the centre of the act got another treatment on Thursday in his constituency, Kontangora, Niger State. Senator Aliyu had attended a parley of his people involving political office holders.

But the gathering later turned sour for the senator who his constituents refused to grant audience. Before his ordeal, a female member of the PDP had taken the stage to address the people during which he mentioned that only Senator Aliyu among the federal legislators of the state has made an impact on the people.
The statement angered the audience who pelted the woman and abused her for campaigning for Aliyu. The crowd took its angst against Aliyu farther when they booed him and refused him addressing the people. All efforts of the governor, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu to appease them and allow Senator Aliyu talk failed.

The latest Allegation
On January 23, 2008, while the Senate was deliberating on the current trend of the war against corruption, the former DIG again stirred the hornetís nest when he declared that there are still fraudsters masquerading as the countryís lawmakers in the National Assembly.
According to him, before the advent of EFCC, Nigerians were hitherto seen as 419ners, adding that "in this National Assembly, we still have 419ners."

He had hardly concluded his sentence when Senator Ayogu Eze raised a point of order that borders on privilege, where he argued among other things that the statement made by Senator Aliyu impugned not only on his integrity but that of his other colleagues, including the Senate President, Senator David Mark.
Relying on Order 15, therefore, he urged the Senate to cause Senator Nuhu Aliyu to either be compelled to name the 419ners or retract his statement.

But Aliyu insisted that he was not going to withdraw his statement, and instead offered to name just one out of the series of the 419ners in the National Assembly.
But as he was about to open his mouth, Senator Awaisu Kuta quickly rushed to his seat, apparently to prevail on him from naming names.

In support of Senator Aliyu, Senate Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Kabiru Gaya said "this is a serious issue, if we must be seen to be fighting corruption, we must start with ourselves. If we have to set good examples in this direction, I want to see progress in the work of the committee in the next two weeks."
At the end, Mark referred the matter to the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the Senate for further investigation, with a mandate to report back in two weeks.

And Senator Aliyu makes a u-turn
Aliyu who Saturday Sun gathered exclusively had liaised with his former constituency- the police to update his list of 419 lawmakers with a resolve to go ahead and make public the list of fraudsters in the National Assembly made a u-turn last Monday, saying that though he stood by his claims, he would however only reveal the identities of those involved to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives alone.

The former Deputy Inspector-General of Police who walked into the Senate Press Corps Centre without prompting also said even if he appeared before the Senate probe panel, which was to commence sitting last Tuesday, he would not disclose the identities of the crooks masquerading as lawmakers for fear of being leaked to the public.

"Nobody invited me to come here (Press Centre). I learnt that a number of you visited my office to talk to me about what is going on currently in the National Assembly, especially with regards to my stand on offences related to the EFCC, what we used to call 419.
"I repeat, and I repeat it again, I stand by what I said. The only thing you are not going to hear from me is the names you want to know. I will not mention these names you want to know. I will not mention those names.

"I will not provide any name to anybody because it would leak. I was prepared to name names on that day but I have changed my mind. I wonít mention names except to the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives. If it leaks out, I will know the source."
Elucidating more on why he was not disposed to naming lawmakers involved in Advance Fee Fraud publicly; Aliyu added that he raised the alarm just to prick the conscience of the lawmakers involved to make them stop the act, thereby redeeming Nigeriaís image internationally.
Hear him: "many of those defrauded never appeared to prosecute the cases. None ever appeared. This is my predicament. Thatís why I wonít mention names. If I do, I would be accused of character assassination and taken to court to prove my case.

"The noise I am making in the National Assembly is intentional. Itís meant to distract and discourage my colleagues from what they are doing. Honestly, before God and man, I have a lot to say but I will limit it here.
"I have my integrity to protect. I have been here since 1999 and I donít want to tarnish my image. I want Nigeria to progress. What Iím doing is to instil fear in them so that they can stop what they are doing in the name of Nigeria.
"Gentlemen, if in the process, I die, I will be very happy that I died with the progress of Nigeria."

Aliyuís courage fails him
By last Tuesday, Aliyu was bid to appear before the probe panel to say everything he knew about the existence of 419 lawmakers in the National Assembly. And since he had promised to reveal the names only to Mark and Speaker Dimeji Bankole, one would have expected him to go to the committee and impressed it on the members that he was ready to carry out his threat by revealing the names to Mark and Speaker Bankole.

But rather than do that he took his colleagues by surprise when he announced to them that he was beating a retreat as he has suddenly realized that the allegation he made on the floor of the Senate last week was a contradiction of the law and as such he was not only withdrawing his statement but he regretted the entire action. Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, a member of the panel described his attempt to ask the Senate to drop the idea of going ahead with the probe as tantamount to attempting to "procure an abortion when the baby is on."

He had hardly taken his seat when the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu declared that the issue raised by Aliyu was even more controversial than the Bakassi issue. To this end, he insisted that the committee should be allowed to do its work and that Aliyu should go there to make his submissions.
Lending his voice to the debate, Senateís deputy leader, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora said "what my colleague is trying to do amounts to procuring an abortion when the baby is on. Parliamentary immunity does not preclude parliamentary decency. We have to be careful in whatever statement we make so that we donít have ourselves to blame. I therefore align with what the Deputy Senate President has said."

Under Senatorsí fire
From then on, Senators took their turn to lampoon Senator Nuhu Aliyu for causing the Senate what one of them described as an "avoidable problem." Among those who spoke along this line are Senators Patrick Osakwe, Mohammed Adamu Bello, and Mohammed Ida, who after rebuking Senator Aliyu pleaded with the Senate to forgive him, saying to "err is human, to forgive is divine. But I would implore him to apologize to the entire National Assembly and Nigerians, and that the committee should take judicial notice of the apology."

At this point, Senate President, Senator David Mark asked Aliyu to say the connection between his withdrawal and the pubic apology being demanded by some Senators.
And the former Deputy Inspector-General of Police stood up to say: "the content of my submission was apologetic, to err is human and to forgive is divine. I made a statement here which contradicts the law. I regret it. But I want my colleagues to understand that it is not as if I have not investigated Senators and House members before, however I should not have made the statement, I regret it."
Again, Mark said "Senator Nuhu, Iím not clear in my mind, is it an apology or what?" And Senator Aliyu responded "yes, it is an apology."

But Senator Anthony Agbo asked "is he withdrawing the statement because he feels that 419 do exist in the National Assembly, but he does not want to name them or that they do not exist at all. I want to know upon which of the grounds he is withdrawing his statement", while Senator James Manager reminded the Senate that since Senator Aliyu made similar allegation in 2005 and as an elder he is, he was repeating similar allegations now, then the apology must be properly rooted. He added: "I know he spent about 35 years in the police, and as such he is still very much close to the police, therefore he should know the import of his allegations."
Ruling on the matter, Mark who relied on the Senateís Order 58 (6) which prevents the Senate from re-considering any matter that it had taken decision on, except a substantive motion was brought to the effect, to make his decision said "we have taken his apology but it does not stop the matter from being referred to the committee. My ruling is therefore that the matter stands referred to the committee."

At the probe panel
Once the Senate President ruled on the matter, Senator Aliyu took his bag and made for the venue where the probe panel was sitting. Asked why he was tendering an apology when he was ready to name names when the issue first broke out, Aliyu told the panel led by Senator Omar Hambagda that: "Mr. Chairman from the bottom of my heart, after having listened to my lawyers, I agreed with them and had to apologise and that apology is from the bottom of my heart."

Asked further to name names, he said "I will not answer this question and nobody can force me to answer the question because I will not. Again Nuhu Aliyu will never mention names, I will not mention names."
Questioning him further, a member of the panel Senator Tawa Wada said "if you know the existence of a criminals and you refuse to divulge their identities, do you know that that it is a crime?
Defiant Nuhu Aliyu responded: "then go ahead and take me to court."
He also quickly withdrew another statement he had made before the committee wherein he claimed that if he fails to mention names, every member of the National Assembly would be a suspect, saying that it was slip of tongue.

There are indeed fraudsters here
But even at the panel, a few of the members believed that there are indeed fraudsters among them. For instance, Senator Andrew Babalola was of the view that Senator Aliyu was sure of his facts, only that he was withholding them because of the damage it was likely to cause on the image of the legislative body.
What are you doing here? You are supposed to be in my cell.

Another member of the panel, Senator Lee Maeba reminded his colleagues of how once an Assistant Commissioner of Police from Rivers State visited the National Assembly and saw a lawmaker who should be cooling his heels in the prison and asked the lawmaker "what are you doing here, youíre supposed to be in my cell?" And the lawmaker replied Ďsorry sirí, but I was not convicted." He went further to say that perhaps it was that kind of a picture that was always re-occurring in the minds of the former police boss. But since he has refused to name names; the committee would make do with his (Aliyu) submissions before it.

Aliyu canít stop
However in what he called a closing remark, Aliyu again reminded the panel that Nigeria was a haven of criminals where foreign investors are always suspicious of putting their money, because according to him, there are criminal activities going on in the country.
He continued "I donít know if you know that because of the criminal activities going on in Nigeria, there are even Nigerians who are investing in Ghana instead of Nigeria. I feel very, very sad! Again, I feel very, very disturbed that the British Airways that takes the bulk of Nigerians to Britain sometimes with three times more passengers than that of Ghanaians; still find it more convenient to have their crews in Ghana because Nigeria is unsafe. And because of the criminal activities going on in Nigeria, investors are running away."

Senators react
Virtually all the Senators who spoke to Saturday Sun last Wednesday were of the view that it would be against their rule to draw any conclusion on the matter now since it was already before a probe panel.
But when reminded that Senator Nuhu Aliyu had disclosed that he was unwilling to go ahead with his threat, Senator Joseph Akargerger told Saturday Sun that "the Senate will have a way of making him to make a disclosure. We canít say anything now until the investigation is concluded before we know where to go from there. However the Senate must find a way of making him to make disclosure."

Deputy Senate Minority leader, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora also told Saturday Sun that "you see I want to commend him (Aliyu) at least for his courage. It takes a lot of courage for one to reverse oneself. Having said, it is important to say that parliamentary freedom is not absolute, as every freedom is qualified. Therefore it is expected that whatever you will say on the floor of the House must be within the confines of legislative decency and decorum.

"You will agree with me that if he had been allowed to go ahead to name names on the floor the day he wanted to, the people so named would have been stigmatized and may not have the opportunity of defending themselves immediately. But in the wisdom of the Senate President, he quickly referred the matter to a committee. The wisdom there is that by the time he names the alleged 419ners before the committee, those named will be invited to state their cases in the spirit of fair hearing.

Last line
Ordinarily, Senator Aliyuís action is capable of earning him a suspension. But from what has transpired so far, he may be let off the hook. He would however be subjected to another round of bashing from his colleagues when the report of the probe panel is brought before the Senate for deliberation and subsequent action. Interestingly, the bashing would be coming from Senators who ordinarily should not have the guts to take him to the cleaners. And the Senator from Niger State would be left with two options: One, to open his mouth once and for all, or forever remain silent on the alleged 419ners in the National Assembly. Two, to use his office and links in the police to get some of the case files re-opened to facilitate the prosecution of the alleged crooks, murderers and 419ners in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

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