The Senate has challenged Prof. Attahiru Jega, former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to name lawmakers whom he knew to have solicited bribes as alleged by him.
Senate President Bukola Saraki expressed disappointment at the comments made by the former INEC chairman, saying he was embarrassed.
Prof. Jega was a keynote speaker at a public lecture marking the 2018 Democracy Day in Abuja, and alleged that “most National Assembly committees’ chairmen are notorious for seeking bribe”.
Jega added that fighting corruption had been made difficult in Nigeria because those who should make laws to strengthen the war on corruption were the ones promoting the evil, and he fingered federal lawmakers as major culprits since 1999.
Coming under order 43, matters of personal explanations, Isa Hamman Misau (APC, Bauchi) drew lawmakers’ attention to the damage Jega’s comment had done to the integrity of the National Assembly as a lawmaking institution.
Misau, who described the statement as “unfortunate”, added that Jega’s comment had further tarnished the reputation of the legislature, especially in the estimation of members of the executive and other Nigerians.
“My point of order is based on the lecture made during the Democracy Day; the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was in attendance.
“During the lecture, the guest lecturer, who is an elder statesman and former chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, made a statement which I feel I have to bring to this floor.
“He mentioned that some committee chairmen of the National Assembly are notorious for demanding or collecting bribes, which I feel is unfortunate.
“Somebody that is well respected, to come and make a statement that he was told by some executives! I feel that statement is very weighty because that programme was televised live. The thing they need to understand is that these live programmes are watched around the world”.
“And, at the time he made that statement – I am a member of the ECOWAS parliament and, after the lecture, I went to the parliament, most of the parliamentarians, this was the question they were asking me, that what the professor said, was it true or not?
“I found it difficult to explain to them, and I feel that not only Professor Jega but anybody that would make statements concerning the credibility of this Senate and the chairmen, I think you should be bold enough to mention the committee chairmen, especially when it is about fighting corruption in Nigeria.”
He added: “If we really want to fight corruption and want to help the government, he would not be making such statements without mentioning the committee chairmen and those who gave him that sort of information. I felt embarrassed. We need the professor to throw more light on what he said.”
Reacting, Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate, noted that the comments caused a great deal of embarrassment to the National Assembly leadership as witnessed by himself and the House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
“I was at the programme, myself and the speaker, and we were highly embarrassed by this kind of comment.
“All of us are committed to the fight against corruption, but I believe it doesn’t help the fight against corruption, it is a slight on the integrity of some of us, where such a statement is made.
“If he has those kinds of evidence, he should bring them forward, because to say that is to suggest that every member of the National Assembly is part of this, that even those who are not part of this are condoning this action, which is far from the truth.
“I think the professor, who is respected, should come out and mention these kinds of members he is aware of. If he can’t come out and name names, then he should not make such branding statements”.
“Going forward to all distinguished and respected Nigerians, in issues that have to do with the institutions and a parliament, if there are cases like this, we have always said that we are not going to cover up for anybody and future accusations; they should name them and see what the institution would do in trying to ensure that the necessary sanctions are taken,” Saraki said.