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Nigerian MP: Lawmakers Offered Bribe to Change Constitution

  • Gilbert da Costa

An opposition leader in Nigeria's parliament is alleging lawmakers are being offered bribes to support another term for President Olusegun Obasanjo. Opposition elements are mobilizing to challenge the proposed change.

The stage is set for a major showdown in the next few days in the Nigerian parliament when it debates a proposal to change the constitution to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for a third term.

A parliamentary group endorsed the much criticized proposal last Thursday.

An opposition leader in the House of Representatives, Wunmi Bewaji, alleges bribes are being offered to lawmakers to support the proposed change.

"It is $1 million because after what happened in the committee, with the rejection of the report of the committee, they went back. What they are touting now is $1 million dollars per vote," he said. "And it has been coordinated by a principal officer in the senate and a principal officer in the House."

Bewaji, the House leader of Nigeria's third-largest political party the Alliance for Democracy, insists opposition to the proposal is strong.

"I can assure Nigerians that it will be roundly defeated," he added. "The third-term proposal will be roundly defeated on the floor. I can tell you that we have the number in the larger House. We have the number to ensure that the third term thing is brought to an end."

Supporters of President Obasanjo have dismissed reports that the president is campaigning for a third term. Senator Ibrahim Mantu, a close friend of the president and head of the committee that approved the third term, says it is all a matter of speculation at this point.

"The president has never told anyone that he wants to stay beyond the year 2007 and constitutionally, he had always said he does not intend to go against the constitution, that he swore by the constitution, he will respect the constitution, he will uphold the constitution. I think what is happening right now is the handwork of enemies of democracy," said Mr. Mantu.

Bewaji says changing the constitution to accommodate a third term for the president could lead to the break up of Nigeria.

"It will spell doom, it will spell anarchy," he explained. "That will be the end of democracy in Nigeria. And that, mark my words that might be the end of Nigeria as a federation, as a united country. The fact remains that Nigeria is a very, very fragile federation and anything that is done with reckless abandon, without regard for the fragile nature of the federation, is going to push the nation to a precipice."

Nigeria, a leading crude oil producer, is facing threats of widespread violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta, where kidnapping oil workers has become fairly regular.

There are also prospects of politically motivated violence in other parts of the country. More than 14,000 people have been killed through violence in Nigeria since Mr. Obasanjo was inaugurated in 1999.

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