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Nigeria’s Embattled Speaker Resigns Over Contract Scandal


Some Nigerians have welcomed the news of the resignation of embattled speaker of the House of Representatives and her deputy as a step in the right direction in President Umaru Musa YarAdua’s promise to fight graft. Some political observers say the resignations are a first step towards restoring order in the House of Representatives, which has yet to debate a single piece of legislation since its inauguration in June because all parliamentary business has been reportedly overshadowed by the contracts scandal.

Reports of corruption last month prompted an in-house investigation, which found Speaker Patricia Etteh and her deputy Babangida Nguroje complicit in breaching House rules in awarding contracts worth five million dollars for the renovation of their official houses and the purchase of 10 cars. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of members have reportedly elected one of Etteh’s opponents, Terngu Tsegba, to chair the debate on the contracts scandal.

Kabir Mato is a political science professor of the University of Abuja. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that there was the need for a change in leadership in the House of Representatives.

”It simply speaks about the necessity to have a change in the leadership of the lower house of the Nigeria national assembly after facing a protracted crisis spanning more than two months. I think it’s a welcome development in the sense that there is this absolute resolution on the part of the majority of members of the House of Representatives to ensure that they effect a change in leadership on one hand, and on the other hand there was an increase in national pressure on the side of labor Unions, student groups, Civil Society Organizations and the rest of them that have made up their mind that the speaker… was incapable of providing the necessary leadership that the House of Representatives would want at this historical epoch,” Mato said.

He said the speaker and her deputy’s resignation is good for the maturation of Nigeria’s young democracy.

“I think what happened to day in the house was an accumulation of all these factors and I think is basically a triumph for the integrity of the institution over individual desires and aspirations,” he noted.

Mato explained the significance of the Tuesday’s resignation to President Umaru Musa YarAdua’s administration.

“My point of view here is that in as much as the president desires to rule by the rule of law and he also desires to allow every major organ of government to perform its constitutional responsibilities, there are instances where the need to intervene in order to be able to save the system of unnecessary stress like the one we are facing in Nigeria in the last two, three months becomes very imperative,” Mato said.

He reiterated that the president should have calmed things down before it got to a point of chaos in the national assembly and the body politic.

“As much as the president wants to tell the world that he has zero tolerance for corruption, my expectation was that the president would have at least warned his party officials from making very inflammatory statements that over heated the politics. He didn’t need to tell the speaker to out rightly resign her appointment, but he could tell the leadership of the party under Ahmadu Ali to watch the statement they made that inflamed the whole crisis,” he pointed out.