The Speaker of  the House of  Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, on Monday  said that  President  Goodluck Jonathan’s “body language” did not indicate that  he had the political will  to stem  corruption in the country.

 He also decried  Jonathan’s penchant for setting up committees to probe corruption allegations and what he termed “the culture of undue secrecy surrounding the operation of government.”

Tambuwal listed the oil subsidy and  Security and Exchange Commission scandals, the Pension scam as well as the Oduaghate, to  buttress his allegation of  Jonathan’s perceived  paying of lip service to the war against graft.

The speaker  also  came downhard on  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,  accusing it of being corrupt.

He was reacting to issues raised during the question and answer session at an event organised by the Nigerian Bar Association to mark the 2013 International Anti-corruption Day in Abuja.

But the Presidency  said  it was unfortunate that a man occupying a high office  as the speaker could  judge the President by body language.

Tambuwal  said, “The Executive, by  constituting committees to investigate what ordinarily would have been investigated by the EFCC, the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and other-related offences commission) and the  Code of Conduct Bureau, is engaged in a duplication of effort.

“We ( the National Assembly) do our own; we have been mandated by the  1999 Constitution to do it. They ( the anti-corruption agencies) have been established by law to do what they do.

“The Executive has no business in establishing their own.  They (the Executive) should just refer  corruption issues, if they mean business, to the EFCC.

 “Let the Executive have the will of referring these matters, from the office of Mr. President, to the EFCC and see what will happen.

“By the action of setting up different committees for straight forward  cases, the President’s body language doesn’t tend to support the fight against corruption.”

Turning to  a representative of the EFCC  Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde, at the event , he said the agency had turned a blind eye to  several fraud allegations  that  the National Assembly had  investigated.

He said, “Let us start with the anti-corruption agencies. I am happy that EFCC is here because they are also corrupt. Let us start by asking them what happens to the  grants they receive from donor agencies which are neither budgeted nor accounted for? That is corruption.

 “This is why we have asked the House Committee on  EFCC to look into some of these issues and report back.

“The EFCC said it had started implementing the report on the  probe of the fuel subsidy regime. Let me say it here today(Monday) that what EFCC said it was implementing was not the House report which exposed the enormous fraud in the system, but the one by Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

   “The last the House heard from you on the subsidy report was when you requested me, the Speaker,  to ask  some   members of the House to come and help you do your work. You  also asked for explanations on some of the recommendations.

 “I said no, it is not part of our job. We have done our bit; go  and do yours.

 “What has happened to all the exposed  corruption cases?  Of course, the   pension scam is there. “There are  also the   recent and obvious fraud in the aviation sector and  that of the   SEC  where trillions of naira from private investors were suspected to have been mismanaged.

“When we commenced investigation into the SEC  matter, what became of paramount interest  to the EFCC was an  allegation that one of our members collected $4,000 as estacode to travel but failed to do so.

“Our members were immediately rushed to court for prosecution. Meanwhile, the top government officer that was found culpable in the main fraud for which the National Assembly called for public hearing, nothing has happened to her till date.

“I  have not  heard or read anywhere that she was invited by the EFCC or that any member of SEC was even invited.

“We at the National Assembly, for the sake of probity and accountability, agreed that budgetary allocation to SEC  should be suspended, only for us to hear  that the Finance ministry, the Budget Office and the Accountant- General of the Federation’s office found a leeway of funding SEC through service-wide vote.

 “Coming to what happened in the aviation industry recently, do we need an angel to report to the  EFCC that something happened there? No we don’t.

“What  we have is that the National Security Adviser, who should have  been more seriously interested and concerned about the security situation in this country, is being given an assignment to investigate what is clearly obvious.

“We all belong to this country and  so people should stop taking us for granted.”

  Tambuwal also explained his disagreement with the Presidency over the Bureau of Public Procurement.

He said   that  Jonathan  had failed to  set up a council for the BPP, as stipulated by the law.

According to him, the President should stop using the Federal Executive Council as a clearing house for the award of contracts.

Tambuwal said, “When I raised in my budget speech and advised Mr. President to stop using the Executive Council as a clearing house for the award of contracts, so many people attacked   my person, saying  that I was disrespectful to the office of the President.

“The fact of the matter is that the position of the law, that is the BPP  Act, is that there should be a council to be established by the President.

“That position of the law is not being respected and that is the reason we kept in abeyance, the amendment proposed to the law by the President.”

The Speaker  also  accused the Executive of selective compliance with  the resolutions of the National Assembly.

He said, “When we came up with the doctrine of necessity,   we gave the then Vice-President (Jonathan) the  power  to act as President. That  was   promptly implemented and he was sworn in as Acting President.

“But when we go to other areas, they(Executive) said it is mere advice, which they can implement or do whatever they like with.

“For now, without sounding defeatist, our resolutions are not being respected.”

But the Speaker stressed that the National Assembly was  working on a law that would make it compulsory for the Executive to comply with all its resolutions.

Tambuwal denied insinuations that the lawmakers were  guilty of padding the budget.

He also faulted the calls that a member of the House,  Farouk Lawan,  should have been suspended after he was accused of collecting bribe from a businessman, Femi Otedola.

Earlier, in  his speech titled, “The Role of the Legislature in Curbing the Corruption Pandemic in Nigeria,” Tambuwal had  stressed that Nigeria would have made significant progress in the fight against corruption if the government and its agencies had enforced the anti-corruption laws enacted by the National Assembly.

The Speaker called on Nigerians to insist on the prosecution and sanctioning of persons indicted by the legislature or by any agency concerned with the fight against corruption.

The Presidency  however   said it was unfortunate that   Tambuwwal, could be judging the President by body language.

 The  Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, in an interview with one of our correspondents, wondered whether the Speaker  had become a sorcerer that could read Jonathan’s body language.

Abati said by virtue of his position, the Speaker should make efforts to focus on government’s anti-corruption efforts rather than body language.

He  said, “Is he (Tambuwwal) now a sorcerer that he now goes about reading people’s body language? He should make efforts to focus more on the efforts of the administration in fighting corruption and comment on what he knows.

“This  administration is not going to fight corruption on the basis of mere speculation, or the politics being played by some people.

“Since his argument is based on body language, I think it is unfortunate that a man that is occupying such a high office is talking about body language whereas he is in a position to know the truth and defend both his party and the government.

“He should make the effort to know that the government is investigating various matters and working on them, and that President Jonathan will not condone any act of proven corruption.

“Besides, the Executive  is not in a position to dictate to the judiciary and other independent institutions. There is a process.

“Corruption is not fought without due process being observed and he who is occupying a serious position should know a lot about it rather than acting the sorcerer and interpreting body language all over the place.

“It is not the executive that prosecutes people who may have been indicted. The fight against corruption is ultimately a collective responsibility.”

The NBA President, Okey Wali (SAN),  had also  expressed regrets that “in spite of all the efforts against graft, Nigeria is still rated very low in its fight against corruption.”

Wali lamented  that besides “scandals and all sorts of stories, not much has come out” of probes conducted by the National Assembly into alleged corruption in some public institutions such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

The NBA President  condemned corruption in the judiciary, noting that some judges were lacking in moral and ethical qualities.

He said,  “Before, Nigerian judges made their marks all over the world.  Most judges still have their education but the morality and ethical aspects have been expunged from their life experiences.

“There is a general feeling that high-profile cases never make it through the Nigerian court system.

“Serious crimes carry a slap on the wrist and petty sentencing, while petty criminals get maximum  penalties.

“Compare corruption punishment in Ghana, South Africa, and China to Nigeria and one sees why Nigeria will remain an object of mockery in the international community.”

 But  the Chairman of the CCB, Sam Saba, said the level of corruption in the country was exaggerated.

He said, “I am one of those who believe that we exaggerate corruption in this country.  There is no day you will pick up a newspaper without finding corruption on the front page or in the middle spread,”  he said.

The CCB boss faulted the proposed law that would allow public officials to open and maintain foreign accounts.

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