…as lawmakers spoil for a fight with Lawan, Gbajabiamila over sharing formula
. Senate President, Speaker allegedly took $2m apiece
. Each senator allegedly got $20,000, Reps member $5000
. We’ll treat Niger Delta lawmakers indicted as infidels – IYC
. Nationwide mass protests loom over 3% fund allocation to host communities
An alleged $10million bribe paid in cash to the Federal lawmakers to speed up the passage of the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has become the source of the current disquiet in the National Assembly.
This is just as feelers emerged on Friday that some human and civil rights groups sympathetic to the people of Niger Delta are making plans to embark on a nationwide protest over the provision of PIA allocating only three per cent of the revenue of oil companies to host communities.
Also, the Ijaw Youths Council, on Friday night warned that serious consequences await any of the National Assembly members from the Niger Delta indicted in the alleged $10million cash bribe offered Federal lawmakers to influence their passage of the controversial PIB.
IYC National Spokesman, Ebilade Ekerefe, issued this warning last night in a reply to inquiries by First News on the alleged bribery scandal surrounding the recent passage of the PIB by NASS, saying Niger Delta Federal lawmakers found to have partaken in the alleged sharing of the bribe would be treated as “an infidel.”
The PIB was recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari as the Petroleum Industry Act.
The alleged $10milion cash bribe, First News learnt, was paid to the leadership of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to check the initial gale of opposition building against the passage of the bill over a controversial clause granting only three per cent of the income of oil companies to host communities.
But it was learnt that the failure of the leadership of both chambers of the NASS to promptly reach out to the other members and the eventual discovery by the other lawmakers that they had allegedly been cheated in the sharing of the alleged cash bribe by both the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, have resulted in the brewing face-off among the Federal legislators.
The grouse of the lawmakers against the leadership of the NASS, First News learnt, is the greed allegedly exhibited by both Lawan and Gbajabiamila, who allegedly took $2million cash apiece out of the alleged $10million cash bribe money to ensure the quick passage of the bill inspite of its noted shortcoming and protest by oil-producing communities.
The Senate President and the Speaker were allegedly paid in dollars amounting to hundreds of millions of naira to guarantee the passage of the controversial PIB signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari during the week, reports also said on Friday.
Other members of the NASS in both chambers were said to have also been paid out of the $10million bribe money, which they received in dollars to secure their support for the passage of the bill.
“Lawan was paid $2 million (N823 million) while Gbajabiamila was paid $1.5 million (N617 million) as bribes,” Sahara Reporters quoted a source as saying.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, the source further told Sahara Reporters, allegedly facilitated the payment of the bribe money to the lawmakers.
“Each senator was paid $20, 000 (N8.2 million) while members of the lower chamber (House of Representatives) were paid $5, 000 (N2 million) each,” the source added.
It, however, revealed that an unidentified billionaire oil magnate, as reported by The Gazette, provided $2million out of the total $10million bribe money while other oil companies and individuals in the sector gave the remaining $8million allegedly paid the lawmakers to influence their passage of the PIB.
“The Senate President received $2 million and the Speaker received $2 million. Their greedy misconduct was recently exposed to us and we will seriously take up the matter when we resume from the annual recess next month,” Sahara Reporters quoted a senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid charges of breach of privilege, as having told The Gazette.
“From what I can volunteer, many senators were given $20,000 before and after the PIB was passed, depending on their availability,” the senator reportedly added.
Sahara Reporters further stated that another lawmaker, who expressed anger about the affair confessed to The Gazette that he received $5,000, but claimed he did not know it was part of a multimillion-dollar bribe money to lawmakers to pass the bill.
The lawmaker, who pleaded anonymity, reportedly told The Gazette, “They gave me $5,000 and said it was for us to buy biscuits for our children for labouring day and night to get the bill to the stage of passage.
“To God, I did not know that it was about $10 million that they received and some crooks calling themselves leaders got $2 million each for themselves.
“We will protest the matter after our break because some people have to realise that they don’t have two heads and we have to fight for our rights and privileges as members of the National Assembly. Each one of us is representing a constituency and that makes us all equal because no one at the National Assembly is representing more than one constituency.”
Other lawmakers allegedly told The Gazette that the sharing of the bribe money was coordinated by Sylva and Senator Albert Akpan (PDP-Akwa Ibom).
Quoting an unnamed senator, The Gazette reports that the lawmaker said that Senator Akpan sent one of his aides to deliver $20,000 to him in his office.
“He (Mr Akpan) sent a woman from his office to give me $20,000. They said the money came from people who have investments in the oil and gas and they wanted to appreciate us for our dedication in seeing the bill through after so many years of failed efforts,” The Gazette quoted the senator saying.
It added that another lawmaker, who confirmed the bribery, said it was a serious scandal waiting to explode because a lawmaker had already mentioned the matter in the House’ WhatsApp group some weeks back.
“A lawmaker protested the sharing formula but no one responded or engaged him in the House’ WhatsApp group. So I fear that many colleagues are angry about the whole thing,” the lawmaker reportedly told The Gazette.
Another lawmaker quoted by Sahara Reporters said the unrest could easily have been avoided if the NASS leadership had properly conducted themselves in handling the alleged sharing of the $10million bribe money.
“It is common across the world for lawmakers to be offered gratification. But it has to be equitably distributed so that no one feels cheated or left out,” it quoted the lawmaker as saying.
Meanwhile, the IYC has warned that Niger Delta Federal lawmakers indicted in the alleged sharing of the $10million cash bribe would be treated as infidels.
According to the IYC spokesman, Ekerefe, in a statement issued in reply to an inquiry by First News on the scandal, although the council had yet to confirm the bribery of the lawmakers, it won’t be a surprise if it eventually turned out to be true as the leadership of NASS has remained tied to the apron strings of the Presidency.
The IYC restated its earlier declaration of President Buhari and Petroleum Minister, Sylva personae non gratae in the Niger Delta, saying the people of the area would no longer welcome either of them.
Ekerefe said, “We are yet to verify the authenticity of the alleged $10m bribery scandal to National Assembly members for the PIB to be passed. But if it’s true, I won’t be surprised because the current National Assembly under the supervision of Lawal and Femi Gbajabiamila is doing the bidding of President Muhammadu Buhari and not Nigerians. However, if we find out that any of the National Assembly members from the Niger Delta region is culpable of this alleged bribery scam, they’ll be treated like infidels.
“IYC is not planning any protest for the now. What we said is that President Buhari and the Minister of state for Petroleum Resources should not come to the Niger Delta region for now because of the palpable anger of the people. But if they do, I can assure them that they will be greeted with boos and cheers. It will not the first time such disgraceful treatment will be meted to leaders from this region and that will be activated.”
Oil-producing host communities in the Niger-Delta region have continued to kick against the three per cent allocated to them by the PIA, saying it’s grossly inadequate to address decades of environmental degradation and neglect suffered by the people of the area.
The communities have continued to insist on at least 10 per cent, though Federal Government initially proposed five per cent.
But the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other operators kicked against this, arguing that any sharing formula giving more than three per cent to host communities would negatively affect their revenue margins and scare potential investors away from Nigeria’s crumbling oil sector.
Inspite of the rowdy and inconclusive sessions at the NASS, the lawmakers finally passed the PIB last month into a law seeking to repackage the sector and restructure the NNPC as a commercial enterprise rather than a federal charter.
President Buhari signed the bill into law this week against the opposition by host communities over the controversial three per cent equity stake for oil-producing areas.