The atmosphere in the chamber of the House of Representatives was charged yesterday over allegations of $50,000 bribe said to have been given to each Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member allegedly by the executive arm of government to induce them to foil debate on the $9.3 million cash for arms deal.
The situation, which nearly degenerated into a rowdy session, started when Rep Albert Sam-Tsokwa (PDP-Taraba) complained that he woke up yesterday to see newspapers stories of the walk-out by the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the debate on the arms deal and allegations that PDP members were given $50,000 each.
“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 me,” Sam-Tsokwa said.
Expressing sadness that the allegation breached his privilege as a member of the House, the legislator attributed its peddling to a fellow member, who he did not name.
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.”
Condemning the walk-out, Sam-Tsokwa urged the House to probe the allegation by referring the matter to the Ethics and Privileges Committee.
But Rep Ali Madaki (Kano, APC), who owned up to being the person who told a journalist over the telephone about the bribe stood by his words but amended his fact by saying that he was aware that each of the PDP members got $20,000 instead of $50,000 widely reported Wednesday.
Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha however admitted that the House “is at trying times.” According to him, “We should be careful as circumstances like this could lead to casualty. It is not my wish that such should happen. It is regrettable that despite the fact that I bent over to take the motion, there was still a walk-out,” he said.
At this point, Madaki raised a point of order, but was shouted down by his colleagues. Then, Rep Samson Osagie (Edo, APC) intervened and urged that Madaki be allowed to speak.
When he stood up Madaki said the ‘member’ that Sam-Tsokwa was referring to was him. He admitted telling a journalist that he heard on good authority “that PDP members were given $20,000 each.”
His remark threw the chamber into a noisy mode until the presiding officer moderated and ruled that the matter be investigated by the Ethics and Privileges committee, which was mandated to report back to the House in two weeks.
Meanwhile, following the arrest of the jet containing $9.3m belonging to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor in Johannesburg in South Africa and the outrage from Nigerians, the Catholic Bishops in the country have said that if eventually the CAN president was found having a hand in the alleged deal, he would have completely spoilt the name of their religion.
The leaders of the Catholic Bishops who purposely convened a meeting in Bauchi to deliberate on the issue lamented that it was a disgrace to have a good Christian involving in such criminal activities that contradict the teachings of Christianity.
The Catholic Arch Bishop of Jos, Rev Ignatius Kaigama who spoke on behalf of the Bishops after the meeting on the Hausa service of the BBC monitored in Jos expressed sadness and resentment on the connection of Oritsejafor’s Jet and the suspicious arm deal in South Africa.
He said there is no smoke without fire, adding that it was surprising for the government of the county to venture into business of weapons without using military planes or having at least military personnel in the deal, stressing that it was shocking and uncalled for.
He said, ” If at the end of the day the CAN president is found guilty in the alleged arm deal, the name of our religion is spoilt because he is our president and people would continue to say that Christians are bringing weapons into the country to disturb the peace”
“It is very amazing that the government would venture into such a risky business with private jets. The business should have been done using military jets or to have at least military personnel in the jet. So there may be something hidden in whole thing”, he added.
Asked on what to be done to whoever was found guilty in the business, the cleric said, “Whoever is traced to have taken part in this dreaded act irrespective of his position, the person should be dealt with appropriately.”
Kaigama further faulted President Goodluck Jonathan for lacking strategies to ensure peace and stability in the country, noting that countless people were being killed and displaced every day.