Thursday, May 12, 2011

House Members Move for Bankole’s Removal

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, faces a stormy session as the House of Representatives Wednesday ordered a preliminary investigation into its alleged indebtedness to a commercial bank to the tune of N10 billion.
Moves to impeach him were launched Wednesday night, with strong indications that the proceedings may be taken a step further today, with the apparent inability of the House to pay the outstanding salaries and allowances of its members.

In a confidential phone chat Wednesday night, the member who does not want his name in print said: “We will not allow him to preside Thursday. He cannot be a judge in his own case. We are going to suspend him. If we have 240 members in support of the motion, we will go for outright impeachment, otherwise we will just suspend him and strip him of all paraphernalia of office, if he comes tomorrow he will not go back with his convoy of official cars.”

There are speculations that the bulk of the loan went into the Bankole’s political campaigns in preparation for the just concluded parliamentary elections, which he incidentally lost. 

Unconfirmed reports indicate  that apart from deploying the bulk of the loan to fund his electioneering campaigns, Bankole allegedly purchased about 36 exotic Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) which he distributed to some prominent politicians,  including state governors, to ensure that he retained his seat as Speaker in the next parliamentary session after he might have won his re-election in Abeokuta-South federal constituency of Ogun State. He failed to win the election.

The resolution came amid tension and drama arising from the initial lockout of the lawmakers from the chamber and the move by some aggrieved lawmakers to confront the leadership   on account of the allegations.

It was a session billed to have commenced at 2.00pm but the doors to the legislative chamber were under lock and key as at 2.35pm. Security men who kept vigil at the various entrances said they were acting on “orders from above” while lawmakers who had arrived early to take their seats were directed to go to the conference room of the Deputy Speaker where an impromptu closed door meeting was holding. 

The Sergeant At Arms called for reinforcement of security before he opened the chamber at 2.41pm. Deputy Speaker, Nafada, entered the chamber along with other principal officers at exactly 3.25pm and at least nine security operatives guarded the mace, the symbol of authority of the House, throughout the tension soaked session.

The investigation will commence Thursday morning when Bankole, and the Clerk of the House, Mr Sanni Omolori, are  expected to provide  some explanations on the apparent bankruptcy of the lower house.

Bankole, the presiding officer of the House  and Omolori, the chief accounting officer of the chamber, are expected to confirm  the authenticity of the said loan, how the borrowed funds were spent and ascertain if  such expenditure received due  approval of members  as required by the House Rules.  

The decision to conduct an investigation into the finances of the House was taken yesterday at the plenary amidst rowdiness and tight security. Bankole was absent at the session. It was the second consecutive legislative sitting he would be absenting himself since the House resumed from the election break.

The resolution to probe the duo followed a motion of privilege moved by Hon. Dino Melaye seeking the intervention of the House on the issue of the non-payment of arrears of salaries and allowances owed him and five other legislators who were suspended last year and later re-instated through a court order. 

In the motion, Melaye also alleged that not only has the House been unable to pay the recalled members, it has been unable to  pay the salaries, allowances and severance package of the entire members of the House, barely  three weeks to the end of the sixth session of the National Assembly.

According to Melaye, the insolvency of the House was not because the statutory allocations   accrued to the House has not been released by the Central Bank of Nigeria, but that the funds have  been seized by the commercial bank because of the indebtedness of the chamber to the bank. He urged the House to formally invite the Speaker to explain the details of the loan which, he claimed, did not pass through the due process.

He stated that so far, available records have shown that the House has not authorised any such borrowing, adding that no bank can grant loan or overdraft to an institution without obtaining a resolution passed by members of such an institution authorising the loan facility.   

He urged the House to set up an Adhoc Committee to investigate the allegations levelled against the Speaker   and to have   him suspended until the probe was completed.

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