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Nigeria Launches Corruption Investigation into House Leadership

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Kim Lewis

At least one member of Nigeria's parliament was injured Tuesday when a fight broke out between lawmakers.

The trouble began after the House of Representatives suspended 11 members who had accused the speaker of corruption. Reports from the scene say punches were thrown and that one lawmaker suffered a broken hand or arm.

The group of House members, who call themselves "The Progressives," demanded a probe into allegations that Speaker Oladimeji Bankole embezzled millions of dollars.

In response to the allegations, Nigeria's  anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has launched an investigation into the financial activities of Mr. Bankole and other top officials of the House.

Chinedu Offor is on assignment in Nigeria and is covering the story from Abuja, where the investigation was launched.

“Today, was a rowdy session at the premises of the Nigerian House of Representatives as members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission started investigating the Speaker of the House.  Dimeji Bankole is third in line of succession if something should happen to the President.  He’s been accused of corruption by fellow members.  They say he has misappropriated about 100-million U-S dollars.  So the anti-corruption agency has swung into action and is investigating Mr. Bankole and other officials of the House,” said Offor.

Bankole denies the allegations and some officials say the charges are politically motivated.  However, Offor said if proven the charges could lead to impeachment of Bankole.

“What they intend to do is impeach the Speaker, “said Offor. The agency head,  Farida Waziri has set up a panel to probe the Speaker of the House of Representatives and other officers.   “They are going to probe the Speaker, and his spending habits and if anything is found they are going to turn the evidence over to the state prosecutors and fellow members of the House of Representatives and that can set the stage for impeachment of the Speaker”, Offor went on to explain.

Offor says this type of investigation goes to the heart of the matter of President Goodluck Jonathan’s renewed pledge to fight corruption and if the allegations are proven or if they find a ‘smoking gun”, the President will most likely have no option but to support the removal of the speaker.

“That might play into the calculation for next year’s election as to whether the President will run or not,” said Offor.

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