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Nigerians Welcome Parliament Speaker Resignation


Nigeria's lower chamber of parliament, the House of Representatives, is expected to elect new presiding officials Thursday, following the resignation of Speaker Patricia Etteh and her deputy over a corruption scandal. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports the speaker's resignation resonates with most Nigerians.

Nigerian newspapers hailed the resignation of the parliamentary speaker and her deputy as a positive development for the country's democracy.

It was the main story in local newspapers, reflecting Nigerians keen interest in the corruption scandal in a country where the average wage is about $50 per month.

A parliamentary panel that investigated the $5 million contract scam indicted Etteh and her deputy. The panel said that Etteh had not followed due process in the award of contracts to renovate her official residence and that of her deputy.

The announcement of Etteh's resignation followed protests by Nigeria 's two largest trade unions.

The president of the Trades Union Congress, Peter Esele, sees the resignations as a major boost for Nigeria 's anti-graft war.

"The public outcry was massive," he noted. "The court of public opinion was just too much for them to manage. That tells you that those who are there, and those who aspiring to be there, the people are going to be alert. The wind of change is just blowing slowly, but it is blowing steadily. You are aware of what the judiciary is doing with the last elections. A lot of arbitrary behavior and fraudulent acts will gradually be checked."

The resignations will restore order in the House, which has yet to commence parliamentary business since its inauguration in June due to the contracts scandal.

Allies and opponents of the former speaker repeatedly fought on the floor of the House and one of her supporters collapsed and died from exhaustion during one of such stormy sessions.

Before stepping aside, Etteh, 54, said she regretted the crisis triggered by the scandal. She urged her colleagues to look at the investigative panel's report, as she put it, dispassionately. Etteh had previously rejected any wrongdoing.

The new speaker is expected to come from the southwestern region, in line with the zoning formula adopted by the ruling party.

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