The House of Representatives wednesday directed its Committee on Ethics and Privilege to investigate allegations that its members were allegedly given bribes to vote against the move to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Amendment Act.
It urged the ethics committee to determine whether or not the privilege of members of the House had been breached as well as determine the culpability, if any, of any member alleged to have taken the bribe.
Speculations were rife at the weekend that pro-Buhari lawmakers in both the Senate and the House were influenced with the sums of $50,000 and $30,000 respectively to vote against the bill, which both chambers have initiated in the process to override.
In a matter of privilege raised on the House floor by Hon. Damburam Nuhu (APC, Kano), he said the parliament, particularly the House, had been dragged in the mud by the smear campaign.
Referring to a newspaper publication (not THISDAY) on the issue, he urged the House to respond, saying: “I won’t allow mere newspaper allegation to tarnish my image, the matter should be investigated by the ethics committee. The publication is trying to tarnish our image in the eyes of the public.”
But the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the issue was beyond the House ethics committee as it has an external dimension.
He urged the House to seek huge damages against the media houses which published the stories without proper verification.
According to him, “Bribery and corruption is a criminal offence which attracts imprisonment on conviction. It’s not a matter for the Ethics and Privilege Committee which takes care of members internally.
“And because the allegations are coming from external sources, you should not become a judge in your own case.”
He said the matter was ripe for litigation. “By the time you slam heavy damages against the media houses, this would stop.
“I want resolution on a class action. It’s time to nail this coffin and determine whether or not, and if anybody has collected, they will come here,” Gbajabiamila said.
He said since the story was widespread, lawmakers were at the mercy of their constituencies where the people will ask for their share of the money having read it in the newspapers.
Hon. Hassan Saleh (APC, Benue) said it was time to stop the continuous attack on the parliament by the media.
“It is irresponsible journalism. As a national newspaper you must investigate before going public. It is time we begin to sue if after this investigation we come clean.”
Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) said the allegations were a clear case of defamation, adding that legal action should be taken by the parliament.
On his part, Hon. Nkem Uzoma Abonta (PDP, Abia) said the story which was speculative and ostensibly pointing fingers at the executive arm of government, suggested who was behind it.
According to him, “We are not influenced by anybody to do the needful. We should concentrate on legislative process and not be derailed.”
Lawmakers accused members of the executive arm for trying to distract them from performing their core functions.
Dogara, however, referred the matter to the ethics committee to look into, determine culpability and make suggestions on the available legal options to the House if a breach of privilege is established.
“If it’s only in court that we get relief, we’ll proceed,” he ruled.