Nigeria?s newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives Dimeji Bankole has come under heavy criticism over allegations he avoided taking part in the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), as stipulated in the constitution. The program is mandatory for all Nigerian graduates of universities and polytechnics with exception of those who are above 30 years old before they complete tertiary education. Under the Nigerian constitution, it is unlawful for anyone to dodge the youth program.
Opponents of the new speaker are calling for his resignation over the allegation. From the capital, Abuja House member, the Honorable Sanni Salleh-Minjidir, tells reporter Peter Clottey the allegations are a smear campaign against the speaker.
?This is a speaker that we?ve been waiting for quite a while to get. We believe he has what is takes to take us to the next level, and I?m saying that with all sense of sincerity. Having said that, you just asked about this allegation of his dodging the service. The one fundamental thing that was missing from that is the opinion of the National Youth Service Corps themselves. I thought that the first thing that would have been done would be to check up on the authorities and find out what the situation is,? Salleh-Minjidir pointed out.
He dismissed the allegation against the speaker as not worthy enough for Bankole?s consideration.
?This whole issue is not even worth it for his consideration at this moment. We are busy trying to see how we can pilot the affairs of the house for the next four years. I don?t think it deserves to be given any response. The authorities are there. It can be checked up. Why don?t they go to NYSC and check it up and find out what is there? This is so simple, isn?t it he asked.
Salleh-Minjidir said the election of Speaker Bankole is a special one, which majority of the House of Representatives is proud about.
?The witnesses from the fourth estate of the realm show how he got elected as speaker. This is unprecedented in the history of parliament in Nigeria from 1999 to date. He is the person that the overwhelming majority of the members, 304, voted for out of 360 members. And we are quite comfortable with the way he has been piloting the affairs of the house, and we expect greater things from him,? Salleh-Minjidir noted.
He says he puts great confidence in the abilities of Speaker Bankole to unify not only the House, but also restore its lost luster and credibility.
?I have no doubts whatsoever about his capability to take the house to the next level, to mend fences where need be. And we are quite comfortable with having him as our speaker,? he said.