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Bayelsa Impeachment: N52m Looted From Assembly Treasury

Bayelsa Impeachment Drama: N52m Looted From Assembly Treasury

THE last is certainly not yet heard about the impeachment drama in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, the home state of Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, in Southern Nigeria.

In the weeks ahead, the key actors in the drama and their sponsoring god-fathers, are likely to be battling hard to brush up their soiled images on what motivated them to act. But, at the moment, and going by what is filtering out from the security circles, graft appears to be the driving force of the absurd drama.

Findings by AkanimoReports in Yenagoa, the state capital, showed that there is a total of N52 million, around $347,000, missing from the vault of the parliament.

A breakdown of the figure showed that there was a previously approved sum of N28 million, about $187,000, that was supposed to be paid to contractors for jobs done, and for the burial of a legislator’s father. Neither the contractors nor the legislator concerned were settled. The previous Monday, at the heat of the impeachment drama, the sum of N24 million, around $160,000, grew wings and disappeared from the Assembly treasury.

Already, anti-graft crusaders in the predominantly Ijaw state are worried that the anti-corruption agencies in the country under the watch of their kinsman, President Jonathan, were yet to wade into the alleged looting of the Bayelsa Assembly’s treasury by the masterminds of the impeachment exercise.

The obviously embarrassed Governor Henry Dickson, has directed that all civil servants in the House who were privy to the impeachment plot, and connived with the lawmakers in its execution, be withdrawn and made to face the music in accordance with the laid down procedures.

Top security sources in the state, say the authorities have a closely guarded information about the sponsors of the failed impeachment exercise. Among them are, King A. J. Turner, a known friend of President Jonathan, who also hails from Ogbia; Fred Agbedi, the Special Adviser to Governor Fickson on Political Matters; Kiwei Onuneghen, the Chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area; General Afrika, a repentant militant leader; Nestor Binabo, the immediate past Speaker of the House and Acting Governor who handed over to the incumbent; and Fini Anganye, the legislator who announced himself as the new Speaker

The name of the former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and presidential aide on Niger Delta Affairs, Timi Alaibe, is also being mentioned as a background mover for the impeachment.

It was further gathered that on Monday, June 4, there were some ‘’funny’’ movements within the Assembly complex by some legislators. Apparently smelling a rat, the Chief of Staff of the speaker allegedly alerted his boss who was at the time, out of the state on official engagement. The speaker in turn, allegedly directed the Commissioner of Police to sealed-off the complex The police complied.

When the initial eight pro-impeachment legislators were denied access by the police, they allegedly put calsl through to Agbedi, and some of their other key sponsors, to intervene.

Their alleged sponsors, prevailed on the police boss to grant them access under the pretense that they were meeting to discuss an ‘’urgent state matter’’.

On entering the chambers of the House, they allegedly lured three other lawmakers to join them in carrying out a documentation of Constituency Projects. That eventually swelled the number to 11.

But they sat without the mace, the symbol of legislative authority in parliament. Before then, it was also gathered that the pro-impeachment legislators tried to get the Sergeant-At-Arms, to bring out the mace, promising him a cash gift of N1.00 million if he plays ball.

After their sitting without the mace, the arrowheads of the failed impeachment, allegedly ‘’forced’’ the Assembly Accountant to release to them, the sum of N24 million in the vault of the parliament. They allegedly bolted away with the cash.

Political watchers in Bayelsa say the impeachment drama would not have arisen if the embattled speaker had agreed to rip the state off of another N28 million. The story making the rounds in the state has it that when Nestor, was speaker, he allegedly received approval for projects amounting to N28 million. But the money did not get to its expected targets, including the sum of N3.5 million meant for the burial of a legislator’s father.

With contractors pressing for their payment, records at the Accounts Department of the parliament tended to show the contractors were ‘’paid’’. Worried, the speaker confronted the governor with the evidence, who in turn declared that his administration has ‘’zero-tolerance for corruption’’.

Special Assistant to the Speaker on Media and Publicity, Piriye Kiyaramo, had told us on Friday that the purported impeachment of his boss was an embarrassment to the government and people of the state, maintaining that the exercise did not comply Order 44 of the Standing Orders of the House.

According to him, ''the House had earlier adjourned its sitting last week Wednesday, May 30, 2012, to Tuesday, June 5, 2012, to enable it to transmit previously passed bills to the governor for his assent.

''While most of the members who traveled, were on their way back to the state, the 11 members, led by the former acting governor, Mr. Nestor Binabo, forcefully made their way into the hallow chamber of the House, claiming to have received directives from the state governor to hold an emergency session on that fateful Monday to consider what they described as matters of urgent public importance.

''However, being blindfolded by their desperation to unseat the speaker, before he returned from his family medical trip, they went ahead to sit without the symbol of authority in the House, being the mace, contrary to the tradition and practice in every parliament, the world over, meaning that whatever decision, taken on the sacred floor of the House on that Monday amounted to an exercise in futility''.

He is claiming that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that, before a Speaker or his deputy could be removed, there must be a two-third majority of members present on the floor of the House, being 16 members out of the 24 members in the case of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, to constitute the constitutionally required two third majority.

The speaker has therefore challenged the 11 members that carried out the purported impeachment exercise to provide proof of evidence to the contrary, if they had two-third majority of members during their purported sitting to impeach him.

''Prior to this unfortunate incident, which of course, is a distraction to the transformation agenda of the state governor, the House had enjoyed a very cordial working relationship with the executive arm to the admiration of the people of Bayelsa, with a record passage of about 10 bills in just two months, a feat that is being applauded by all well meaning individuals, within and outside the state, describing it as being the first of its kind in the of country.

''That the existing harmonious relationship between the House and the executive arm has been mutually beneficial to the two arms of government.

''The 11 members who carried out the purported impeachment attempt of the speaker are being instigated to fuel crisis between the House and the executive arm of government, to the detriment of the anticipated rapid infrastructural development of Bayelsa state'', he said.

According to him, the exercise was ill intended and did not comply with the provisions of the constitution and the standing rules of the House

The leadership and the House has accordingly tender an unreserved apology to President Jonathan, and Governor Dickson, for what they described as ''the embarrassment and unnecessary distraction'' the purported impeachment episode may have caused them and the people of the state, ''at a time when the whole country is mourning the colossal loss of lives, occasioned by the ill-fated Dana Airline crash in Lagos''.

ENDS

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