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Nigeria’s National Assembly Continues Debate On Controversial Contract Awards

Some legislators in Nigeria’s House of Representatives are asking their embattled speaker to step aside as the house begins a debate today (Wednesday) about a report on the investigation that led to the awarding of contract worth over five million dollars. This follows a deadlock yesterday over whether Speaker Patricia Etteh of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) should step down after she was found guilty of flouting house rules on the awarding of the contracts. But supporters of Speaker Etteh say she is being witch-hunted by what they described as the powers that be to whom she refused to kowtow.

Honorable Sanni Saleh-Minjidir is a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives and a member of the team that investigated the controversially awarded contract. From the capital, Abuja he tells reporter Peter Clottey that he wants today’s debate and hearing to be transparent.

“From the beginning we tried to do things in a transparent manner. That is the reason why I insisted we conduct our hearing in the open, and I was supported by my colleagues and the rest of the members on the panel. And having done that, now we have come to a stage where we would consider the report. She cannot be a judge in her own case. It just doesn’t happen that way. So we are seeking to have her step aside so that a speaker pro tem would be installed who would preside over the deliberations of the report,” Saleh-Minjidir pointed out.

He said any interested house member would be given the opportunity to weigh in on the report, which he said would determine how long the hearing would last.

“I’m not in a position to really say how long it would take, but the seriousness of the situation is such that they have to give any interested honorable member a chance to voice out his opinion to make contributions on the debate. So, realistically, we cannot say that it’s going to be a day or two, but we are going to make sure that we do things, we expedite action, make sure that we do it in good time,” he said.

Saleh-Minjidir dismissed speaker Etteh’s claim of innocence, adding that she was misled into awarding the controversial contracts.

“It is my opinion that the issue of being misled does not arise because first of all, madam speaker has been in the house since 1999. She’s been in the house for eight years before this time around she became the speaker. And we found out in the investigation that the tenders were never advertised. So the manner in which the companies that bid for this contract emanated from her office is quite suspicious. And we tend to take a look at issues and see where exactly we departed from what we should have been done in the first place,” Saleh-Minjidir noted.

He said there were startling revelations about the award of the contracts.

“In my mind I said, look, if the tenders were not advertised, how did the companies that bid for these contracts get to find out that these jobs were up for grabs? The second question is where and when did the management come in the processing leading to the awarding of these contracts? These are all very pertinent questions, which one has to answer before you can answer whether she was misled or not. But it’s my humble opinion that the managements were never given the chance to really participate in the processes leading to the award of the contracts, as they would have wished. They were only brought in at the time when the attention was needed to just rubber stamp these things, and that’s how it happened,” he said.