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Nigerian Parliament Leader Under Pressure to Resign or Face Impeachment


Critics of Nigeria's parliament speaker say the report of a panel of legislators which indicted her about contracts to renovate two official residences and buy 10 cars is sufficiently grave to warrant impeachment proceedings. In Abuja, Gilbert da Costa has been following the debate and files this report for VOA.

Influential members of the Nigerian House of Representatives say removing Patricia Etteh as speaker should be the first task of parliament, when it reconvenes in mid-October.

Several lawmakers say they expect the speaker to resign before then. Akin Oyebode, a professor of law at the University of Lagos, believes that is the most reasonable thing to do, under the circumstance.

"Some of us had expected her to have stepped aside, long before now. I assume that, in two weeks when the House reconvenes, she would not be around, presiding," said Oyebode. "I would assume that there will be a speaker ex tempore that would take over affairs. I think this is the time for her to throw in the towel. She has being caught napping and this malfeasance will not go away. Her tenure is irredeemably flawed and I don't see her returning, in good conscience, as speaker."

The nine-member investigative panel says the House of Representatives leadership violated the rules in approving contracts, worth $5 million, to renovate the speaker's 10-bedroom official residence and that of her deputy. Etteh also approved the purchase of 10 luxury cars for the House leadership.

The report notes there was no budgetary provision and no public bidding for the contracts, contrary to rules governing the award of public contracts.

In a country where more 70 percent of the citizens live on less than $2 a day, the contracts have provoked very angry reactions.

The furor about the scandal has caused lawmakers to come to blows on the floor of the lower legislative chamber.

Etteh, the first woman to occupy Nigeria's number-four political post, has denied any wrongdoing in approving the contracts, saying due process was followed.

President Umaru Yar'Adua has pledged zero tolerance for corruption in a country considered one of the most tainted in the world.

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