A group in the House of Representatives, Progressive-Minded Legislators, on Wednesday accused the Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, of authorising “spurious, vexatious and reckless expenditure” totalling N9bn in less than one year.
“The House received the total sum of N11bn for 2008 and 2009 and expended a total of N9bn,” the PML alleged at a press conference at the National Assembly complex, Abuja.
The group’s leader, Mr. Dino Melaye, said, “The majority of House members have no clue about the details of the expenditure purportedly made from this colossal sum.
“The speaker authorised a spurious, vexatious and reckless expenditure profile at a time when there is so much economic hardship, massive unemployment and neglected infrastructure in the country.”
But Bankole, through a statement from his office, asked Nigerians to “disregard this concerted attempt at all cost to disturb the peace and progress of the House.”
The PML had last week given Bankole a seven-day ultimatum to resign on account of alleged corrupt practices or be “disgraced out of office.”
As the ultimatum expired on Wednesday (yesterday), the group released photocopies of documents detailing alleged “fictitious” transactions conducted on the watch of the speaker since 2008.
The press conference witnessed a little hitch as members of the PML and journalists were locked out of the hall intended to be used for the event.
The locks to the hall (Room 0.19), designated as the ‘Press Centre’ of the House, were reportedly changed a few hours to the scheduled time of the conference by unknown persons.
When Melaye and some of his colleagues arrived for the conference at about 2.08pm, they could not open the doors to the hall. This made Melaye to read the text of the conference at an open space within the ground floor of the House Wing (New Building) of the assembly complex.
According to the group, among the controversial spending reportedly approved by Bankole and the Body of Principal Officers, is the money used to purchase four units of Range Rover (V8) SUVs; and three units of Mercedes Benz S-600 cars at N335.5m.
The vehicles, which were bought on May 28, 2008, were for the use of the speaker and his deputy, Alhaji Usman Nafada.
The group recalled that Bankole’s predecessor, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, approved N23m to purchase cars but was “publicly lampooned.”
“We consider the amount of money approved on about six or seven cars as outrageous and should be condemned,” the group stated.
It added that Bankole also approved the purchase of 400 units of 40-inch LCD Samsung television at N525,000 per unit.
Part of the text reads, “The open market price for this (40-inch LCD Samsung television set ) is about N180,000 per unit; even if you mark up this sum by 25 per cent as allowed by the Bureau for Public Procurement and include 10 per cent for tax and Value Added Tax, the unit price will be N243,000.
“The speaker authorised the purchase of the 400 units for N210m instead of N97.2m only. By this action, the speaker has occasioned a loss of the value of N112.80m by the national treasury.”
The PML claimed that more worrisome was the discovery that none of the companies, which supplied the television sets, bid for them, a breach of the Public Procurement Act 2007
The documents released by the group named the companies which supplied the goods as Chiwarna Nigeria Limited (125 units); Joint Venture (25 units); Forte Nigeria Limited (50 units); Point View Resources (50 units); and Perfect Concept (50 units).
The PML also alleged that Bankole approved the purchase of 400 units of Sharp Copier 5316 for N108m “instead of N86. 4m,” resulting in a loss of N21.6m to the national treasury. It said what this meant was that the House leadership paid N270,000 for the copier instead of N160,000 which is the “open market price.”
The group claimed that a similar approval had been made for the procurement of 800 units of Desktop (HP Compaq dc 5700) at N330, 000 per unit as against N160,000 in the open market.
It stated that from all indications, the same financial recklessness was extended to the other items on the list.
“We hereby call on the EFCC and ICPC to comprehensively investigate the use of the capital funds of the House for 2008 and 2009 by Bankole and that he should resign forthwith in order not to obstruct the said investigation,” the group said.
The PML argued that if a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, could resign over corruption allegation of “barely more than N100m”, then the Speaker’s case should not be an exception.
Reacting through a statement, the speaker challenged the PML to direct its allegations to the anti-corruption agencies “instead of making it a media hype.”
“If anybody is aggrieved about any transactions of the National Assembly, this should be directed to anti- corruption agencies instead of making it a media hype,.” he said.
Source: Punch Newspaper – www.punchng.com