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Nigerian Parliamentary Speaker Faces Impeachment

Nigeria 's parliamentary speaker is under fire for spending $5 million to renovate two official residences. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports for VOA the scandal represents a major test of the new administration's pledge to crack down on graft.

Nigeria 's political landscape has been inundated with outrage over the home renovation scandal since the story broke in August.

A parliamentary caucus that investigated the allegation found the speaker culpable. The panel's report is yet to be considered by parliament because Speaker Patricia Etteh has refused to vacate her seat to allow an unfettered debate.

Despite a national outcry for the speaker's removal, her ruling Peoples Democratic Party is backing her.

Opposition National Democratic Party spokesman Kassim Afeagbu says the ruling PDP's stance was an example of hypocrisy in the new government of President Umaru Yar'Adua, who pledged to crack down on graft in a country considered one of the world's most corrupt.

"It is unfortunate that the PDP is taking that stance, trying to support the speaker who has been accused of abuse of office," said Afeagbu. "In the present circumstance she has been found wanting."

"The support coming from the party at this critical time is very unfortunate because here is a government, and here is a party that preaching anti-corruption, and yet condoning it because one of their own is affected. Such selective morality has no place in our society if we want to move forward," he added.

In addition to the $5 million spent to renovate two official residences, the speaker approved another $1.4 million for 12 official cars.

Lawmakers say the spending was not approved in the 2007 budget and the award of the contracts did not follow established procedures.

Analysts say the scandal comes at a delicate time in Nigerian politics.

One lawmaker has died in one of several scuffles that have broken out on the floor of parliament in the past few weeks.

It is expected that Speaker Etteh will finally step aside Tuesday for consideration of the investigation report by Nigeria's parliament.