The former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, on Monday accused the members of the National Assembly of bribe taking.
He said chairmen of committees in the National Assembly were more notorious for bribe taking antics.
Jega made the allegation in Abuja while delivering a lecture titled, “Peace building and good governance for sustainable development in Nigeria,” as part of activities organised to mark the 2018 Democracy Day.
The former INEC boss told the gathering that included President Muhammadu Buhari; President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, that the federal lawmakers took bribes at will under the pretence of committee work and oversight functions.
He said the present administration should resist the temptation of restricting its ongoing anti-corruption war to embezzlement and theft alone.
He said the scope of the anti-corruption fight should be extended to cover bribe taking and giving especially in government agencies.
“The fight against corruption has to be intensified in all its ramifications. There are many successes achieved which are commendable but the magnitude of the problem on the ground is turning these into drops in the ocean.
“Members of the National Assembly engage in bribe taking when they pursue committee works and oversight and I wonder what is happening with intelligence and investigative responsibilities of security agencies in policing our National Assembly.
“Some chairmen of the committees in the National Assembly have become notorious on this issue of demanding bribes with impunity.
“I have passed through the university system. I have heard so many stories of many vice-chancellors about the horror that they go through on question of budget and so-called oversight assignments.
“I am not saying that the chief executives are saints but all we are saying is that we must point the searchlights so that Nigerians and particularly public office holders should have basic common decency and integrity by which they discharge their responsibilities because virtually everybody seems to forget about what is going on.”
The Senate, however, denied Jega’s allegation, asking him to publish names of senators who had demanded bribes, failure of which he should apologise to the lawmakers.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, said it was an allegation that the lawmakers were used to.
“Thank God you said it was an allegation, and that is what it remains. We will never stop getting allegations. So, when someone makes an allegation now, why should I react? This is not new. He is not saying anything new, people have been saying that before,” he said.
Principal officers of the Senate and chairmen of committees including the Chief Whip, Sola Adeyeye, and the Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, who spoke to news outlets also denied demanding and taking bribes.
The Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said he would first study the context in which Jega said what he said before responding to the allegation.
But the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Chukwuka Utazi, denied taking bribes and challenged Nigerians to ask from the EFCC and the ICPC if they had given him bribes.
“I did not work with Jega in the same National Assembly, so if he had said such, it should be the people in the 7th Assembly who worked with him. If you want to confirm whether that (Utazi collecting bribe) is true, go to the (Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim) Magu and the ICPC, and ask them whether I have collected anything from them or not.”
Also denying the allegation, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Baba Garbai, said he was at the event where Jega made the allegation.
He however referred one of our correspondents to the Senate’s spokesman to speak for the lawmakers.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND, Barau Jibrin, could not be reached on the telephone as his line indicated that it had been switched off on Monday evening.
In his denial, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Ajayi Boroffice, stated that his committee always funded its oversight trips.
He however said gifts were accepted based on the discretion of the host.