Nigerian minister sues government
Nigeria's former education minister has taken the
government to court over the way he was sacked from
Fabian Osuji was dismissed on Tuesday in a radio and
television broadcast by President Olusegun Obasanjo
following an anti-corruption investigation.
He denies the charges and says his dismissal on
television, without redress, infringed his human
The president has promised to tackle fraud but Nigeria
is still seen as one of the world's most corrupt
In the broadcast, Mr Obasanjo said 14 people were
involved in paying members of parliament a bribe of
$400,000 (£212,000) to pass an inflated education
Mr Osuji's lawyers want the courts to stop him being
re-arrested, saying he "has been made a scapegoat and
victim of political intrigues as a result of no fault
The legislature cannot wallow in corruption and
expect the outside world to take our pleas for debt
relief very seriously
President Olusegun Obasanjo
He said the money had come from a "public relations
lobby fund" and said that he would co-operate fully
with any investigation.
Mr Osuji's education portfolio has already been given
to another minister, the Associated Press news agency
Both houses of the national assembly have released
statements condemning Mr Obasanjo.
The House of Representatives said the president had
"conducted a television trial".
Although Mr Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party
dominates the National Assembly, the president has had
a difficult relationship with MPs since coming to
power in 1999.
The BBC's Yusuf Sarki Muhammad says Mr Osuji believes
he was sacked because he is seen as a loyalist of Vice
President Atiku Abubakar.
The PDP is divided between supporters of Mr Abubakar
and Mr Obasanjo.
The president wants to root out corruption as he
campaigns for the reduction of the country's $35bn
(£18.5bn) foreign debt.
"The legislature cannot wallow in corruption and
expect the outside world to take our pleas for debt
relief very seriously," he said.
Nigeria, which is Africa's largest oil producer, is
seen as one of the world's most corrupt countries,
according to watchdog Transparency International.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/03/25 11:22:34 GMT
© BBC MMV
‘Wabara Didn’t Take Any Bribe’
In this write-up, Taiwo Adisa, the Special Assistant (Media) to the President of the Senate, argues that Chief Adolphus Wabara should be presumed innocent until proved otherwise.
The recent allegation of bribery against the former Minister of Education and members of the National Assembly has again thrown to the fore the concern over the role of the media in covering such issues. There has been frenzy in the media particularly in the wake of President Olusegun Obasnjo’s nationwide broadcast. A popular television station went to town declaring that the President of the Senate, Chief Adolphus Wabara has been asked to cough out some amount he allegedly took from the former Minister. Although, the Presidency, through the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the President, Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, denied the story the following day, that did not stop the same medium from flashing“breaking news” to the effect that Chief Wabara had resigned from office.
The hype and intensity which the particular broadcast station displayed in handling the “breaking news” vividly bring to the fore what initially had been relayed in muted tones that certain forces are out to paint Wabara black as a prelude to getting him out of the power equation.
Some newspapers also followed the footsteps of the broadcast outfit declaring that sources had confirmed to them that Wabara had resigned from office. This is obviously opposed to the principle of fair hearing whereby the reporter is expected to get the view of the other party before going to town with any publication. Simply put, there is no justification for these stories. Besides, nobody has claimed to have seen the copy of the resignation letter which they declared had been submitted to the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Ahmadu Ali, as against the constitutionally identified channel of doing such. It is appalling that none of the media outfits that published the story crosschecked with the man at the center of the whole thing or any of his men.
It is equally uncharacteristic of the serious media to go town with a story without concrete proof of same in their coffers. Even in the height of advocacy journalism, which coincided with the repressive regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, media practitioners did not overlook the basic tenets of the profession.
What this has clearly shown is that those outfits involved in the publication of baseless stories are involved in running the campaigns for the opponents of the Senate President and are not strictly doing the news business. And as far as that is concerned, their activities would be properly highlighted at the appropriate time. Since the media is supposed to be in search of truth at all times, the allegation of bribery, its investigation and the presidential broadcast should engender further questions, since none of these could be equated to conviction by the court of law.
The media that is search of the truth and nothing superficial should be able to query the ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ of the incident in question. For instance, how was the said bribe collected? When? And where was it delivered? There are further questions of who delivered what and to whom? Who returned the money now being kept as exhibit?
Thorough media investigations could also help throw light on the varied interests who might be working behind the scene to make the allegation assume a life of its own. In view of the obvious and calculated distortion of facts and gross abuse of professional ethics on the part of the some media outfits, it has become necessary to reiterate that the President of the Senate, Chief Adolphus Wabara, has not resigned from office. Indeed the President of Senate views this as a calculated attempt to malign his person and thereafter hound him out of office. It is also aimed at intimidating him for no just cause. However, he has given full indication that he would await the outcome of the investigations of the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the Senate on this matter.
This is equally in line with the decision of the principal officers of the Senate which was made public on Thursday March 24. It has become equally important to place on record that the President of the Senate has restated his innocence of the bribery allegation. As he had stated in his statement forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), he has never asked anyone to demand for money and has never demanded for money from any minister.
Indeed, his decision to intervene in the face-off between the National Assembly Education Committees and the former Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji is borne out of his dream of ensuring a peaceful working relation between the Executive and the Legislature. He had intervened in similar face-offs between Ministers and National Assembly Committees in recent past.
As the most high-ranking political office holder from the South-East, his intervention on behalf of Osuji became more pressing. It is unfortunate that while Chief Wabara had done his part to ensure stability in the political system, believing that same would engender development, groups of people who are bent on removing him from office are daily seeking to subvert the relative peace in the polity and tarnish his image.
It should also be placed on record that Chief Wabara did not refund any money since he did not collect money from anyone. In view of the frenzy and jostling that has characterised the whole saga in recent days; another question that comes to mind is what purpose would the prosecution by the media serve?
As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and National Orientation, Senator Tawa Umbi Wada said last Tuesday while briefing the press on the outcome of the Senate’s closed session, the EFCC does not have the power to convict anyone, such power is only invested in the courts. So you wonder why those who have been pronouncing the Senate President and the other lawmakers mentioned in the bribery saga guilty in the media before a formal trial would not wait till the due process is followed.
What has become clear in this case is the fact the whole saga is being skewed to achieve the aim of removing Wabara from office. It appears to us that just like in the case of the late Senate President Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, the whole idea of probe would go into oblivion if they are able to achieve the design of hounding him out of office.
Proponents of trial by the media may want to address their minds to the situation the governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, has found himself over the ex-convict saga. The High Court and the Court of Appeal have so far exonerated him of the crime; notwithstanding a police report, which we are told, is to the contrary. It is only when the report of a probe by any agency is subjected to the due process of court trial that we can conclusively make pronouncements.
Bearing in mind the unprecedented “war” that characterised the emergence of Chief Wabara as the Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District in 2003, it has become a fact of life that the enemies would not just go to sleep. But for them to lump their ambition and hatred for the man with the ongoing probe is unacceptable.
The purpose of growing our democracy cannot be correctly served if sentiments and predetermined motives underpin the fight against sleaze and graft. Only last Tuesday, the Senate President in conjunction with the Debt Management Office opened a roundtable on debt management and development where experts from all over the world converged to find solutions to the problems of overbearing debt burden on the country’s shoulders. A man who does not mean well for his nation cannot go to that extent. The media cannot also be seen to be correctly fighting the menace if it could not distinguish between political motives and the fight against corruption.
ANPP Is Solidly Behind Obasanjo’
The National Chairman of ANPP, Chief Don Etiebet expresses his party's support on Obasanjo's renewed battle against corruption. He spoke to Chuks Okocha on his party's position.
The President gave a national broadcast where he condemned the level of corruption in the country and some members of your party were involved. How would you react to the President's speech? Look, the President's speech last night on TV constituted a very bold step by President Obasanjo to rid this country of corruption. It portrays the fact that he is honest in the fight against corruption as he has been saying by himself. For him to come out and make that speech, specifically to address the situation of corruption in Nigeria today, particularly when certain figures very well up in the government were involved, is a testimony to his committed and avowed intention to work to remove corruption in the fabric of Nigerian politics and administration. We in ANPP are very pleased with the development and we are going to support him in any way whatsoever he will require us to support him. We in opposition have been singing this for a long time at the national conference there on political reforms. The basic problem everybody is talking about is how to rid this country of corruption and corruption starts from the top and the top must be tackled and so for him to come with that statement yesterday on TV, which is carried in fact if you listened to BBC and Voice of America this morning, you will say that the speech is very well carried and very well analysed by the international community and in fact people in Lagos interviewed and every single Nigerian applauded the decision, so I want to tell the President that whatever support he needs from the opposition, particularly my party, ANPP, which is the largest opposition party in the country, we shall give him to fight this menace that is eating into the fabrics of Nigerian politics and administration, that is capable of destroying this country.
He has said everything. I don't need to repeat his speech and it is quite depressing to note as he has said, the participation of the number three citizen of this country in something like that and at this juncture I must also press and our party man, and this go to show that ANPP is very much in the vanguard of getting good governance to this country because we have always shouted when there is a problem, but then some people will say, ‘Oh, ANPP, you have not shown that you are opposition because you don't go out on the streets and start demonstrating here’, and there and so on and so forth, but we say that we engage ourselves in very constructive opposition; where things go wrong, we go all out and talk about it and we've been talking about corruption, we've been talking about other malaise in this country and it was a member of our party in the House of Representatives that blew the whistle that has led to the discovery of this particular event between the Ministry of Education and the Senate and the House of Representatives, so I take this opportunity to praise that our man who was bold enough to come out with this things about a month ago.
Apart from a member of your party being bold enough to blow the whistle on what was happening, if any member of the party is found culpable in this bribery matter, will the party take up the matter against the person?
Yes. The party, as I said, will give all the support necessary to bring all the people who have been found culpable, who have been found guilty, who have been found to have participated in this crime to book. Whether that person belongs to ANPP or belongs to PDP or belongs to AD or belongs to any party, the important thing is that we Nigerians must start now to abhor corruption, we must start now to built Nigeria on probity, we must start now to build Nigeria for the future generations because the psyche of all Nigerians now is that you must be corrupt in other to exist, you must be ready to cut corners in other to exist, so the speech, the action of Mr. President as embedded in his speech yesterday goes to show that Nigeria is now onto a new path to fighting corruption out of this country, one of our Senators is reported to have been involved in the scam and as the President said, he has received the report of the EFCC. We are going to study it, we are going to invite him and in fact I have already set up a committee of three to call him and talk to him and find out exactly what happened, so that we can take the necessary steps to know what to do, we must get him, interview him and find out what happened with the information we have already received from Mr. President.
You are the National Chairman of the ANPP and leading your party to the National Conference. What will the party input be towards recommending a lasting solution to these corrupt practices by Nigerians?
The mood in the National Conference there is how to place Nigeria on a different pedestal for the task ahead. The task ahead is building Nigeria free of corruption, number one, corruption is the cankerworm that has eating into all fabrics of Nigerian society, you see it everywhere and the mood of the conference members is to tackle corruption in everywhere it is found, so in all the three tiers of government in the Presidency, they National Assembly, the Judiciary, committees have now been set up to look into means and ways of checking and building into controls that will be effective to check the operators of the system in each of those areas and the civil service and the public itself and you remember the President also said that the fight against corruption will not be complete if it is restricted only to the national government, it must go down to the state government, it must go down to local government and it must go down to the private sector and all sectors of the Nigerian life and business, so that is how it should be. That is exactly how it should be and I want to say that ANPP, we give all the support to the President to pursue this, so at the national conference, we are coming out with details of how to check this malaise in every section of governance, every part of it, so like what is happening now, we are going to build in checks and balances, so that such a thing cannot happen again in future, this is the kind of thing that everybody in the National Conference is talking about.
I overheard people saying that what the President said was like selective justice, that he did not take drastic action on the former Inspector-General of Police, who was indicted of corrupt practices. Will you agree it is a selective treatment?
It is not selective and I don't see the difference between what he has done today with the Minister of Education and what happened to the Inspector-General of Police. You remember that the Inspector-General of police immediately retired with the rumour of his being indicted came about, he immediately retired and having retired, he has to follow the process of being on leave and then finally handing over the administration of the police to another person, but what you should know is that the EFCC say they have not yet concluded the investigation on the IG, so he is still under investigation and when they have concluded the investigation… what was submitted before was preliminary investigation with which the president confronted the IG and immediately he resigned, so when EFCC conclude their investigations and send it to the president and we are watching, we in the ANPP, we in the opposition, and we, on behalf of the masses of this country are watching what he is going to do on that case. But the situation now, the position now is that the investigation on him has not yet been concluded, so he has left the position just as the minister has left, so there is no selective justice in that case, both of them are awaiting further actions, pending final investigation and so on and so forth, so there is nothing like that and you will remember too, in the National ID Card project, the same decision was taken by Mr. President and investigation was concluded and many of them were charged to court and unfortunately one of them died, so the step that he have taken, let me tell you is a very bold step. It shows that he is ready now to step on any toe, as long as that toe infringes upon the laws of this country and all Nigerians, I call on all Nigerians to give him that support, if he has to do that one thing for Nigeria before he leaves office, I believe Nigerians will appreciate him very, very much, so he should show the light and we shall all follow and as I said, we shall give him all the support from all angle and the important thing again is that people must be ready to come out, if an ANPP lawmaker didn't come up this allegation one month ago, and immediately he was suspended by the House, this story will not have been there, so maybe, this thing have been happening, and in fact what we are hearing from the President's speech is that there seems to be a kind of constant solicitation of the National Assembly for all these PR from the ministries and where a minister does not agree, they go to their parastatals and where they want to do something, they say to go on oversight functions, during which they will find all sorts of faults against the parastatals in other to cajole them into making these PRs available, so we do not even now know how far this thing has gone, this might be a tip of the iceberg, because from what the President said that other ministries are being investigated, other parastatals are being investigated, and you remember that the President brought up a case that happened in 2004 in one of the Federal Universities, 2004, which is also a parastatal Ministry of Education, so this thing had been going on and therefore one goes to question the veracity of the Nigerian budget in the first place, how much of that budget is actually real? And how much of that budget is actually coded? So the revelation in the Ministry of Education, to me is a tip of the iceberg and if is the President wants to really address this issue of corruption, the implementation of the budgets by all the parastatals and the ministries must be looked into, because it looks like this thing has been going on and it is going on.
You are saying that the budget be reviewed?
Not really reviewed, but in their implementation and looked into critically, a board, an immediate commission should be set up. In fact, the Minister of Finance is doing very well and the Due Process Office is doing very well, but they should go a little further to see how the parastatals spend these monies, because from the look of things here now, it looks as if the parastatals always code, because there is a solicitation, from what the President said, it looks to be that there is always a solicitation from the committees to improve or to load their budget for one reason or the other and if that is not done, then they become difficult in the approval process of their budget, that is the picture that is emerging, so I definitely believe that if the President will go a step further and with Nigerian support to see how the budgets have been approved, what more funds have been put into it and for what purposes and how those projects would be looked into, it will go a long way to solve, from the information, I don't want to go into the details, from the investigation of the EFCC, which the President made available to us, I see a lot of things that happened in the Ministry of Education is just a tip of the iceberg.
A Guide To Corruption in the National Assembly…
By Collins Edomaruse
Made up of the Senate and House of Representatives, the bicameral National Assembly – one of the three arms of government – is primarily saddled with the constitutional responsibility of making "laws for the peace, progress and good governance of the country." They also have other functions that may not be explicitly recognised by the Constitution. These include, but not limited to, subtly influencing government policies through motions and resolutions, exercising some "prying" functions by invoking their oversight power over ministries, government agencies to ensure compliance with budgets approved for such government establishments. There are, however, some responsibilities that are exclusive to the Senate. These include the screening and confirmation of nominees for appointment into the federal executive council, nominees for Board membership of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and ambassadorial nominees. On the account of these exclusive responsibilities, the Senate is regarded as the Upper House of the National Assembly, and the House, the Lower.
In the pursuit of their functions, the legislators in this part of the world, who generally prefer to be addressed as “the distinguished” in the case of a Senator and “the honourable” for the House of Representatives member, devise several means to facilitate their operations. One of such is through committees. A legislator could belong to as many committees as possible, but none, from available statistics, belongs to less than two standing or ad-hoc committees. The bulk of the work of the legislature, in any democratic country, is done at the committee level. It is at the committee level that the lawmakers conduct public hearing for a new legislation or for an inquisition and clear ministerial and ambassadorial nominees. This is the standard all over the world.
Sadly, it is also at the same committee level that most of the reported financial crimes have taken place since 1999, especially regarding the national budget. Other areas like constituency projects initiated and pursued by the lawmakers, sponsored foreign trips, exercising of oversight functions, screening of nominees for sundry appointments, budget scrutiny, among others, have equally been turned into centres of corruption by some of the legislators.
Here are some tips on how the federal legislators pilfer the national treasury.
Public Hearing, Oversight Function and Appropriation...
This is where most of the sordid things are perpetuated by the lawmakers and their collaborators. They start by bashing respondents, grandstanding and holding strong, but opposing views on the matter before them. But they are later to have a volt-face, once the issue of what they call PR is resolved. Read the former Minister of Education's experience as encapsulated in a report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He confessed: "That in December 2004, the Senate and House Committee on Education had practically completed action on the President’s budget as it related to Education for 2005. He was informed that the Committee did not intend to invite him although they had invited all the heads of parastatals and agreed with them on what to do. He became alarmed because in September 2004, and earlier, he had serious problem with the salaries of staff in the ministry and the unity schools who had in fact embarked on various forms of action against the administration because of unpaid salaries and advances. This is because the 2004 budget as submitted by Mr. President (Olusegun Obasanjo) had been seriously modified to the disadvantage of the Ministry but in favour of the parastatals.
"This is because his ministry had not done any PR for the committees, in spite of their approval of over N100 billion appropriations for the Ministry. They were determined to get even with his ministry this time around. Through the assistance of Senator Adighije, a meeting was held with the Chairman of the Senate and House Committees on Education as well as the Appropriations chairman in the residence of the Senate President (Adolphus Wabara) to try and resolve the impasse. At the meeting, he was made aware that the committees had jointly resolved not to approve the Education budget unless some PR was done for the committee. The Senate President himself emphasized the need for the Ministry of Education to come forward with necessary PR or risk its budget not being passed as proposed by Mr. President... "
Just a few months ago, the lawmakers were alleged to have cut dip into the on-going revelations of sleaze when successfully amended the financial institutions Act regarding the newly introduced N25 billion minimum capitalisation for banks. At the end of the exercise, the banks were categorised, but not before some of the legislators allegedly benefited from large financial inducement and choice landed property put at them by the banks, many of which have equally been accused of aiding and abetting corrupt practices in the country.
Like the drama that normally plays out at the lawmakers' oversight and budget public hearing sessions, victims at this level, most of whom are already dreaming dreams of becoming ministers, are questionably drilled and because most of the nominees already have their eyes on controlling votes in a matter of moments afterwards, more often than not, yield to the whims and caprices of some of the lawmakers. They allow Ghana-Must-Go bags to be exchanged for their confirmation. But one man who resisted this is Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. He shouted blue murder during last year's screening session at the National Assembly that some senators had demanded some N54 million inducement from him before he would be confirmed. But this was flatly denied and the accused persons went unpunished as they later collected the booty, but not from el-Rufai. A very senior official of this government was reported to have given out the money to the rampaging Senators to facilitate the minister's clearance.
In 2002, the National Assembly jolted Nigerians over their insistence on having approved, for them, a N500 million budget for their constituency projects. This raised a considerable amount of dust which later came down. This was actually when the executive and the legislature were having a frosty relationship. Budgets, at that time, were sadly and patently delayed for some frivolous reasons. So, it was in the midst of this that Obasanjo sent for the approval of the Senate, a N236.895 billion supplementary budget. To facilitate the approval, the president, reportedly promised to swing with them in their "constituency projects" drive which were agreed upon but never implemented in the past budgets. At least, if the rumoured presidential gratification to the lawmakers to make it impossible for the Senate to secure the two-thirds majority to override the president’s veto of Electoral Law 2002 did not work, the president would have reasoned, approving the N500 million constituency projects should.
The disturbing aspect of this development is that the legislators, whose primary responsibility is lawmaking, seemed to had gone beyond their brief by securing the funds, awarding and executing the contracts, if any, by themselves or by their proxies.
The malaise replayed itself at the state level when members of the Lagos State House of Assembly bought into the constituency projects fray. Their action, like that of their Abuja colleagues, raised questions about their priorities in spending public funds. Their Constituency Project Development Bill, under the speakership of Hon. Olorunimbe Mamowora, now senator and Chairman of Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, permits assemblymen free housing, a furniture allowance and cars, and a special fund that allows them to spend N57.5 million on projects of their own choice.
Fixing Own Budget...
In his national radio and television broadcast on Tuesday, Obasanjo expressed rage over the way the legislature handled financial matters. "I want to reiterate my appeal to the National Assembly to be moderate and conscious about what it puts in the budget for its own remuneration and upkeep which has tendency to encourage corruption and lack of accountability. We sure cannot continue in this way. I believe that this is also a time for us to carefully watch the cost per head to the nation of members of the National Assembly."
This is indeed a very sad development. Among its several responsibilities, the National Assembly is constitutionally empowered to carry out oversight or even supervisory functions over the various departments of agencies and ministries of government.
Although, it is doubtful if the legislature has been able to acquit itself in this regard, what is, however, clear is that the National Assembly is in dire need of oversight itself. The last year's impeachment stand-off between the group of 86 who also called themselves “integrity” senators and the Senate President, Adolphus Wabara's group, calls to question, the whole process of accountability and transparency within Nigeria’s National Assembly. It would appear that the complaint of Wabara’s accusers is not that funds were misused but that they did not get more money than was shared amongst themselves. The Constitutional Rights Project had insisted, then, that "None of the senators including Wabara could stand up publicly to convince Nigerians that the funds being shared was to be used for public purpose. What Nigerians could deduce was that this was public funds being shared as loot by our National Assembly members, for which no accounts is rendered."
INEC Sued over Wabara’s Election
From Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja and Ndubuisi Francis in Lagos, 03.26.2005
It may soon be double trouble for embattled Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara, as two persons have filed a suit at an Abuja High Court, urging the court to compel the Independent National Electoral Commi-ssion (INEC) to declare the actual winner of the 2003 senatorial election in Abia South.
INEC had originally declared Elder Imo of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) as the winner, but the Senate had relied on a court order by Justice Wilson Egboh-Egboh and a letter from Baba Ahmed, secretary of the electoral body, to swear Wabara in as a Senator shortly before he emerged as Senate President in June 2003.
But in a move to save him, some senators had a “solidarity” breakfast meeting in his house yesterday and vowed to “resist” President Oluse-gun Obasanjo’s “attempt to infiltrate and take over the National Assembly the same way he has taken over the Peoples Democratic Party”.
In suit no. FHE/ ABJ/CS/137 filed at the Federal High Court Abuja by Chief Manaffeh Nwoloki and Sam Adiele against INEC on March 14, 2005, the plaintiffs are asking, among other things, that INEC should be compelled to declare the winner of the election, having failed to do so in April 2003 after the senatorial elections.
The originating summons, according to a THISDAY source, have been served on the electoral body, which has been given eight days upon receipt of the summons to enter an appearance in the suit.
The plaintiffs claimed to be registered voters in the Abia South Senatorial Zone seeking to enforce their fundamental human rights under section 77 (1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Part of their claims was that the law allows INEC to declare only one winner in any election and the body had contravened the law by first declaring Imo before Wabara.
But at yesterday’s meeting at Wabara’s residence in Abuja, some of the senators who are very close to him attributed the latest developments to three factors: the refusal of the Senate to tag along with the president on the rumoured third term agenda, the failure of Wabara to persuade the senate to declare a state of emergency in Anambra State and the failure of Wabara to resist the move to unseat Senator Ikechukwu Abana and replace him with Chief Ben Obi on the strength of the judgement of an election petitions tribunal.
A source told THISDAY: “Senator Chris Adighije, who reportedly confessed to collecting the bribe from Professor Fabian Osuji, was tricked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to implicate Wabara so that he would be used as prosecution witness like Sgt Rogers was used against Major Al Mustapha on the Kudirat Abiola murder trial. He did not mention Wabara’s name originally.”
According to the source, Obasanjo had often accused Wabara of being a “weak” leader over the Anambra issue, especially with the unseating of Abana who is in the camp of Chris Uba, one of the principal characters in the Anambra crisis. The swearing-in of Obi after the declaration by Abel Guobadia, INEC chairman, on the floor of the senate that he would only obey a tribunal judgement on the matter, reportedly irked the president who allegedly threatened that Wabara would pay for it.
“You would see that the president was very bitter with Wabara in his broadcast. His decision to humiliate Wabara on national television showed clearly that there was more to it than meets the eye. It was beyond the bribery scandal. The Uba people had been threatening to deal with Wabara over the Abana issue,” he said.
THISDAY learnt that the senators told Wabara that if he had to sacrifice his position as Senate President for the senate to ward off Obasanjo’s “aggression”, he should consider it as his “personal sacrifice” in the struggle.
The Abuja High Court case against INEC is also being regarded by the Wabara camp as the “Plan B” of those who want to unseat the Senate President in case the bribery scandal does not achieve result.
The leadership of the Senate, led by Senator Ibrahim Mantu, had addressed a press conference on Thursday, accusing Obasanjo of singling out the National Assembly for ridicule without taking any action on members of the Executive who have been accused of corruption in the past. “It is also on record that the Public Accounts Committee of the Senate, from the chairmanship of the late Senator Idris Abubakar to date has led the execution of the oversight responsibilities of the Senate and the National Assembly in general and in the process has led to various disclosures, recovery of various sums of money and the standardization of several governmental procedures on accountability and public probity.
"It is therefore, not in doubt that the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has never condoned or harboured corruption throughout its history. Where allegations were made in the past whether within the executive department, the National Assembly or the Judiciary, the Senate always exhibited due diligence in its investigation and always made its findings and recommendations public without fear or favour,” they said.
Also yesterday, Wabara flew into Lagos on a commercial flight, fuelling rumours that his official presidential jet might have been finally withdrawn from him following the bribery scandal over budgetary allocations to the ministry of education for which the minister, Professor Fabian Osuji, was fired by Obasanjo.
The Senate President’s arrival at the Presidential wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, was devoid of the usual air often accompanying the number three citizen in the nation's political hierarchy. Wabara, who until the current bribe scandal had consistently flown in a Presidential jet since he assumed office, boarded a commercial airplane belonging to Bellview Airlines from Abuja. On arrival at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT 11) at the domestic wing of the Lagos airport, his convoy, which had waited at the parking lot of the Presidential wing quickly, went and brought him into the VIP park.
As soon as he was driven into the parking lot in a Peugeot 607 car, newsmen who were already waiting to ask him questions, believing that he was about to disembark from the car and enter the lounge as the practice had been, were in for a surprise.
Apparently not wanting to talk to journalists, the Senate President asked the driver to speed off from the Presidential wing. But as the car was about to make its way through the security gate, the boot flung open, forcing the driver to stop, a situation which gave the photo-journalists around ample opportunity to click their cameras.
Angered by the shots taken by the photographers, Wabara's security details quickly jumped down from the vehicle and gave a stern warning to the photographers to stop. The warning was, however unheeded, prompting more rage from them.
They were however prevailed upon from taking any action by the State Security Service (SSS) operatives attached to the Presidential Lounge. A few minutes later, the car's boot was securely locked and the convoy zoomed off at about 5.30p.m.
However, Mr. Henry Ugbolue, the Chief Press Secretary to Wabara, told THISDAY last night that there was nothing unusual in the Senate President taking commercial flights. “That is his custom. He only travels on the presidential jet if it is an official trip. He is a very simple man,” he said