The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the comments credited to the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, who accused National Assembly members of committing project-duplication fraud.
The House, at the plenary on Tuesday, resolved to invite Owasanoye to explain the report by the Constituency Projects Tracking Group, which claimed to have tracked 424 projects from 2015 to 2018 and between June and August 2019, across 12 states of Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Edo, Enugu, lmo, Kano, Kogi, Lagos, Osun and Sokoto as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
A member of the House, Mr John Dyegh, pointed out that members of the National Assembly were accused in the report of duplicating contracts using the same description, same narrative, same amount, same location and awarded by the same agency.
The fresh conflict is coming after the National Assembly, the ICPC and the Presidency recently traded blames over N1tn allegedly wasted on Zonal Intervention Projects, popularly known as constituency projects.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had on November 19, 2019, said there was little to show for the over N1tn budgeted for the projects initiated by members of the National Assembly in the last 10 years.
Both the Senate and the House had separately debunked the claim, stating that the amount released for execution of the projects was far less than the amount appropriated for them.
The House had particularly accused the ICPC of misleading Buhari into criticising the National Assembly.
On Tuesday, Dyegh, who moved a motion to protest the claim by the ICPC, said the allegation infringed on his privilege as a member of the parliament.
Dyegh, who represents the Gboko/Tarka Federal Constituency of Benue State, said, “The House is further concerned that this is capable of pitting the National Assembly members against their constituents and portray us as thieves.
The lawmaker argued that no court in Nigeria had given any judgment declaring the legislature or its members as thieves, saying, “So, the ICPC chairman has no such right. If you say someone stole, you are saying he/she is a thief.”
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Another member, Mr Ossy Ehiriodu, prayed the House to invite the ICPC boss to address the lawmakers in plenary as the claim was against the entire parliament.
He said, “My amendment is on the prayer, where he (Dyegh) is requesting that the Chairman of the ICPC be invited by the committee. I think this is not an issue of a committee; it is an issue that affects the entire members of the National Assembly. I think we should invite the ICPC chairman to come on the floor of this House to substantiate his allegation against members that we are thieves.”
The Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the plenary, however, warned the lawmakers to be cautious as the comments made by the ICPC boss might have been misquoted or misrepresented.
Wase said, “I’ll rather subscribe to allowing the committees to interface with him. Let us allow the committee to do their work and report back to us.”
The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, also prayed that the House Committees on Ethics and Privileges, and Public Petitions be asked to join the investigation. The prayer was unanimously approved