The Nigerian Senate on Wednesday challenged a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to mention the names of committee chairmen who demand bribe at the National Assembly.
The call followed a point of order raised by Isa Misau (APC, Bauchi Central) to express disappointment at the comments of the former INEC boss.
Jega had on Monday while delivering the Democracy Day lecture, accused federal lawmakers of seeking bribes to carry out their constitutional duties, stressing that chairmen of committees in the National Assembly were more notorious for bribe taking antics.
He stated this at the event hosted at the International Conference Centre, Abuja and attended by President Muhammadu Buhari; the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.
The former INEC chairman said he had “spoken to quite a number of chief executives who complained of high demand for bribes from members of the National Assembly in the name of so-called oversight functions. Some chairmen of committees at the National Assembly are notorious for seeking for bribes”.
Coming under order 43 during Wednesday’s plenary, Misau described Jega’s comments as unfortunate, pointing out that the statement is very weighty because “the 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 ECOWAS parliament and I 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, is it true or not?” he said.
The Bauchi senator further dared the former INEC boss to name the committee chairmen who sought bribes, stating that, “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.
“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 made,” he said.
In his reaction, the Senate President, Saraki, who presided over the plenary, said he was “highly embarrassed” by Jega’s statement as he too was at the programme, asserting that, everyone is committed to fighting corruption and that Jega’s comment does not help the fight against corruption.
“It is a slight to the integrity of some of us, where such a statement is made. If he has those kinds of evidences, he should bring it forward. Because to say that, is to suggest that every member of the National Assembly is part of this; even those who are not part of this are condoling 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 them 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.