The Senate and the House of Representatives have reacted to former Independent National Electoral Commission’s chairman’s allegation of bribe taking, urging the former electoral boss to either mention names of the supposed bribe takers or keep quiet.
In its denial, the Senate asked Jega to publish names of senators who had demanded bribes, failure of which he should apologise to the lawmakers.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, said it was an allegation that the lawmakers were used to.
“Thank God you said it was an allegation, and that is what it remains. We will never stop getting allegations. So, when someone makes an allegation now, why should I react? This is not new. He is not saying anything new, people have been saying that before,” he said.
Principal officers of the Senate and chairmen of committees including the Chief Whip, Sola Adeyeye, and the Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, who spoke to the Punch also denied demanding and taking bribes.
The Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said he would first study the context in which Jega said what he said before responding to the allegation.
But the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Chukwuka Utazi, denied taking bribes and challenged Nigerians to ask from the EFCC and the ICPC if they had given him bribes.
Utazi said, “I did not work with Jega in the same National Assembly, so if he had said such, it should be the people in the 7th Assembly who worked with him. If you want to confirm whether that (Utazi collecting bribe) is true, go to the (Chairman of EFCC, Ibrahim) Magu and the ICPC, and ask them whether I have collected anything from them or not.”
Also denying the allegation, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Baba Garbai, said he was at the event where Jega made the allegation. He however referred one of our correspondents to the Senate’s spokesman to speak for the lawmakers.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND, Barau Jibrin, could not be reached on the telephone as his line indicated that it had been switched off on Monday evening.
In his denial, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Ajayi Boroffice, stated that his committee always funded its oversight trips. He however, said gifts were accepted based on the discretion of the host.
Also, the House of Representatives replied Jega, challenging him to name committee chairmen or members who either demanded or took bribes from him.
The House noted that in the absence of proof, Jega’s comments would pass as another “unfounded allegation” against the legislators.
The Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, and the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, responded on behalf of the House.
Ado-Doguwa said he was in shock that a teacher of Jega’s profile would make “unwarranted allegations” against the National Assembly.
He added, “I will only urge him to mention names of members or committees that he knows, have asked or collected money from him or from any institution to his knowledge.
“He who alleges must prove. I call on Jega to prove his allegations and we, as leaders of this great institution, will take decisive measures to penalise whoever was genuinely involved.
“The National Assembly, as a critical arm of the present administration, is unequivocally committed to the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari and therefore cannot afford to compromise or undermine it.”
On his part, Namdas urged Jega to help the anti-corruption fight of the government by releasing the names of bribe takers in the National Assembly.
Namdas added, “He should supply the names of those who demanded bribes or took bribes from the MDAs. It is the best way to help the government’s anti-corruption crusade. Mere allegations without proof will not help the nation.
“Perhaps, we should also remind Jega that many Nigerians have accused INEC members of staff of taking bribes to manipulate election outcome or frustrate the entire process.
“On these grounds, do we now do a blanket condemnation of INEC workers and say they are bribe takers? More than 200 INEC officials are facing investigation as we speak.”