N39 Million Bribery Scam – Itembe’s Committee Quits

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Herman Hembe

Herman Hembe

Sequel to the weighty allegations of graft and impropriety leveled against the Chairman, House Committee on Capital Market, Hon. Herman Hembe by the Director-General, Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Ms Arunma Oteh, the House yesterday disqualified him and the Committee from proceeding with the probe.

The House also immediately set up an eight-man ad-hoc Committee to take over the probe and bring it to a conclusion, with a view to unraveling the causative factors in the near total collapse of the Capital Market in Nigeria. Chairman of the Committee is Hon. Ibrahim El-Sadu from Taraba State.

The House further referred the bribery scandal against Hembe and his Committee to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges for thorough investigation. The Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal appointed the Deputy-minority Whip of the House, Hon. Samson Osagie to the Committee since the Chairman of the Ethics and Privilege Committee is a member of the Capital Market.

These resolutions made by the House were consequent upon the decision of Hon. Herman Hembe with the Committee on Capital Market to voluntarily withdraw from the probe as a result of the allegation against him and the Committee that he requested the sum of N39 million from the DG, SEC for the funding of the probe.

On resumption of plenary yesterday, the Speaker quickly examined and approved the votes and proceedings of the previous legislative day. As the Speaker was about to enter into the business of the day as marshaled out in the order paper, Hembe raised a point of order to lay personal complaints, which was duly granted.

He immediately drew the attention of the House to the ugly development that erupted in the course of conducting the investigation into the down-turn in the Capital Market as mandated by the House some couple of weeks ago. He said that he was seeking the permission of the House to express his innocence in the saga.

Hembe told the House that he did not make any attempt to collect any bribe or inducement of any kind from the SEC. He rather alleged that he made effort to resist the attempt made by the DG, SEC, and Ms Oteh to entice him with a N30 million bribe.

He said he had an internal memo from the SEC office to substantiate his claim, stressing that he was innocent and would never let the House down. He also vehemently expressed his willingness to submit himself for probe by the graft agencies.

In tandem with the rules of the House, when the embattled Capital Market Chairman finished making his submissions, the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Ishaka Bawa moved a motion that the voluntary withdrawal of Hon. Hembe and his committee be accepted by the House.

He also moved that an ad-hoc Committee be constituted to carry out the investigation on the collapse of capital market and report back to the House within 21 days; and that the allegation against the Hembe and the Committee on Capital Market be referred to the Ethics and Privilege Committee for investigation. The House in a unanimous voice adopted the motion and all the prayers.

It would be recalled that, consequent upon the dwindling state of the capital market in Nigeria in the last three years, the House of Representatives recently mandated its Committee on Capital Market to conduct an investigative hearing with a view to identifying the manifest causes of the market’s near collapse and proffering a lasting solution to the situation.

The House Committee on Capital Market had told Nigerians on resumption of the probe on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 that its vision was to make the Capital Market one of the most vibrant in the world and the envy of African capital market economy; with a mission to make the Market reflective of the Nigerian economy.

However, the probe took a different twist last Thursday as the Director-General of SEC Ms Oteh came up with mind-bugging allegations against the Chairman of the Probe Committee.

She specifically alleged that Hembe demanded for the sum of N39 million to facilitate the investigative hearing. As that was not enough Oteh further alleged that he collected money from the commission last year for a proposed overseas trip which he did not embark on nor did he return the money to the Commission.

Oath’s allegation came a day after the Committee accused her of spending N85, 000 daily on her meal at Transcorp Hilton and violating the rules of employment in the engagement of some staff of the SEC.

According to her, when the request was turned down, the Committee Chairman, a week to the commencement of the public hearing, made another demand for N5m since the earlier request was refused because the amount was considered high, claiming that she also turned down the request.

Since this unfortunate development, the matter has occupied the front burner in the nation’s national discourse, as the media, individuals, civil society groups, human rights organizations and other strata of the population refused to withdraw their torchlight from the issue insisting that the truth must be established. With the decision of the House today, it is expected that the anxiety and aspirations of Nigerians will be properly addressed.

Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal yesterday reiterated the resolve of the House to wage a fierce war against corruption in the country irrespective of the hazardous impact of the crusade on the Parliament and its members.

He also appealed to Nigerians to continue to repose their confidence in the 7th Assembly, assuring that the law-makers were determined to ensure that the trust of Nigerians in the Legislature was not abused.

The number four citizen further pledged that the House of Representatives would continue to be a bulwark against injustice and vanguard for the promotion of good governance and the defence of the interests, yearnings and aspiration of Nigerians.

He made these statements at plenary, while reacting to the allegations of corruption against Hembe and his Committee and the voluntary withdrawal of the Committee from the investigative hearing.

Tambuwal asserted that Nigerians chose presidential democracy as a bulwark against dictatorship, against corruption and waste and against executive recklessness, pointing out that it was for this purpose that the Representatives were called and which they swore to promote, protect and preserve the will of the people as enshrined in the Constitution. Below is the text of his speech:

“This morning we have passed through yet another challenge which though not unusual in the democratic process has subjected this institution to further refining. These challenges are necessary for the strengthening of our democratic institutions”.

“Before I proceed, let me thank Hembe and the entire members of the Committee for their courage in voluntarily withdrawing from this investigative hearing. It is not a popular propensity of public officers in our clime, but it is in line with our legislative agenda of transparency in the conduct of government business”.

“The incidence of March 15 which forms the basis of the deliberations just concluded arose from an investigative hearing which was being conducted pursuant to a resolution of this House. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) in Sections 88 and 89 places upon the legislature the duty and responsibility to conduct investigations into the activities of government for the purpose of exposing corruption, waste and inefficiency. This is no doubt a responsibility which is hazard prone. However, as I have stated elsewhere, these hazards notwithstanding, it is a duty from which we can not and must not abdicate.

“The House of Representatives will continue to be a bulwark against injustice and vanguard for the promotion of good governance and the defence of the interests, yearnings and aspiration of Nigerians”.

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