National Assembly members are bracing for a face-off with their principal officers after finding out they had been grossly cheated in the sharing of a multimillion-dollar bribe to ensure the passage of the new Petroleum Industry Act.
Three senators and two House members confirmed to The Peoples Gazette following an initial tip-off that least $10 million was paid in cash to the federal lawmakers to help accelerate the passage of the bill despite pervasive opposition to a clause that granted only three percent of upstream oil companies’ operating income to host communities.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamiala, Senate President Ahmad Lawan
Specifically, the newspaper reported that the lawmakers are fuming over what one of them termed as “greedy misconduct” of Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamiala, who were accused of taking $2 million each in cash bribes to push the bill through despite protests from host communities.
SaharaReporters had exclusively reported earlier today (Friday) that the chief pricinpal lawmaker in the Upper Chamber, Lawan and his counterpart in the Lower Chamber, Gbajabiamila were paid in dollars (millions of naira) to guarantee the passage of the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
A top source told SaharaReporters that other federal lawmakers –senators and House of Representatives’ members –also received bribes in dollars to ensure the passage of the bill.
“Lawan was paid $2 million (N823 million) while Gbajabiamila was paid $1.5 million (N617 million) as bribes,” the source said.
The payment of the monies was said to have been facilitated by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva.
“Each senator was paid $20, 000 (N8.2 million) while members of the lower chamber (House of Representatives) were paid $5, 000 (N2 million) each,” the source added.
However, the newspaper revealed that a Nigerian billionaire, probably of the largest contemporary stake in the oil and gas industry was said to have provided $2 million alone.
Other firms and individuals in the oil and gas industry provided the remaining $8 million. The Gazette could not publicly identify the Billionaire.
“The Senate President received $2 million and the Speaker received $2 million. Their greedy misconduct was recently exposed to us and we will seriously take up the matter when we resume from the annual recess next month,” a senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid charges of breach of privilege, said.
“From what I can volunteer, many senators were given $20,000 before and after the PIB was passed, depending on their availability,” the senator said.
Another lawmaker furious about the affair admitted to The Gazette that he received $5,000, but said he didn’t know it was part of a multimillion-dollar payout to lawmakers to pass the bill.
The lawmaker said, “They gave me $5,000 and said it was for us to buy biscuits for our children for labouring day and night to get the bill to the stage of passage,” the lawmaker said under anonymity. “To God, I did not know that it was about $10 million that they received and some crooks calling themselves leaders got $2 million each for themselves.
“We will protest the matter after our break because some people have to realise that they don’t have two heads and we have to fight for our rights and privileges as members of the National Assembly,” the lawmaker added. “Each one of us is representing a constituency and that makes us all equal because no one at the National Assembly is representing more than one constituency.”
Host communities, largely of the oil-rich Niger-Delta region, had criticised that 3% is inadequate to address decaded of environmental degradation and neglect inflicted on traditional settlers. The communities said they would accept at least 10 per cent, even though the administration initially proposed five per cent.
But the state-operated Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other operators dug their heels in, saying any sharing formular that offers more than 3% to host communities will cut too deep into their revenue margins and drive away potential investors in the country’s wobbling oil sector.
Notwitthsatnding the standoff at rowdy and inconclusive sessions at the Chambers, lawmakers last month finally passed the Petroleum Industry Bill that sought to repackage the sector and restructure the NNPC as a commercial enterprise rather than a federal charter. Buhari signed the bill into law this week despite the controversies surrounding the meagre three per cent equity stake for host communities.
It was learnt that lawmakers accepted cash inducements to pass the bill, which was proposed by Buhari’s government. Lawmakers said the cash logistics was coordinated by state petroleum minister Timipre Sylva and Senator Albert Akpan (PDP-Akwa Ibom).
A senator revealed to The Gazette that Mr Akpan sent one of his aides to deliver $20,000 to him at his office.
“He (Mr Akpan) sent a woman from his office to give me $20,000. They said the money came from people who have investments in the oil and gas and they wanted to appreciate us for our dedication in seeing the bill through after so many years of failed efforts,” the senator said.
Another lawmaker who confirmed the bribery said it was a serious scandal waiting to explode because a lawmaker had already mentioned the matter in the House’ WhatsApp group weeks ago.
“A lawmaker protested the sharing formula but no one responded or engaged him in the House’ WhatsApp group,” the lawmaker said. “So I fear that many colleagues are angry about the whole thing.”
A lawmaker said the unrest could easily have been avoided had the leaders properly conducted themselves in handling the largesse.
“It is common across the world for lawmakers to be offered gratification,” the lawmaker said. “But it has to be equitably distributed so that no one feels cheated or left out.”
SaharaReporters, New York