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Published On: Tue, Sep 23rd, 2014

$9.3m arms deal: Opposition Reps stage walkout

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apc logoBy Umar Muhammad Puma and Okechuku Okaforadi

  • Accuse Dep Speaker of blocking debate
  • As Senate begins probe

There was a mild drama yesterday as members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the House of Representatives staged a walkout of plenary to protest what they called “an attempt by the ruling party members to sweep the controversial smuggling of $9.3 million to  South Africa, allegedly meant to procure arms and ammunition under the carpet’’.

The drama started following a motion under matters of urgent national importance raised by Rep Sulaiman Kawu Sumaila (APC Kano), asking the House to investigate the attempted smuggle of the sum of $9.3 cash into South Africa, when the Deputy Speaker of the House who presided over the plenary, without any debate on the matter killed the motion when it was put to vote.

Moving the motion, Rep Kawu stated that, “while many South African Security Agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority are involved in the matter because of its gravity, nearly all the relevant Nigerian agencies, especially the Federal Airport Authority (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NCAA), and the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS) do not have any information on the matter”.

Sensing the possible dimension of the debate if allowed, the presiding officer, Emeka Ihedioha said that “debating the motion was not necessary given the security implication of the subject matter”.

“My dear colleagues, I sincerely believe that this motion if passed should go to the joint Committees of the House on National Security and Defence for appropriate actions – should it pass the question. But a debate on this is not necessary given its security implications”, he said.

Addressing journalist outside the chamber by the APC caucus,  the Minority Whip, Rep Samson Osagie (APC, Edo), alleged a cover up and a subversion of legislative processes by the presiding officer whom they said was doing a hatchet job against Nigeria  on behalf of perceived benefactors.

Rep Osagie stated that, “the admission by the federal government that such money was carried and that it was meant for the purchase of arms and ammunition for the purpose of fighting insurgency leaves much to be desired.”

Describing the matter as  very scandalous, disgraceful and very appalling, the caucus asked why the South Africa government was not put on the know and why no officials of NSA and DSS followed the plane since it was a federal government arms transaction.

They also wondered why a wire transaction was not used and why the money was moved by a private jet and not any of the over five to six airplanes in the presidential air fleet.

 Meanwhile, Senate committee on Defence and Army yesterday met for about three hours behind closed doors with the Service chiefs, to unravel what transpired in the seized $9.3million scam.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence, George Sekibo (PDP Rivers East), while fielding questions from journalists shortly after the close door meeting with the Chief of Army Staff, Kenneth Minimah, and the Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, said investigation was still going on the issue.

He also said that while his committee continues to investigate the controversial arm deal, it has not been disputed that the money in question belongs to the Nigerian government, as the information they were able to extract from the service chiefs have indicated.

“We are still investigating the alleged $9.3 million deal. We have started the investigation, when we get through the investigation, we will brief you but fact available to us now from the Security chiefs shows that the money belongs to Nigeria Government”, he said.

Also speaking on the death sentence recently passed on twelve soldiers that were convicted of mutiny by the Nigerian army, Sekibo refuted the rumours that the Senate was under pressure to intervene in the matter.

He however said the sentenced twelve soldiers still have a way out through option of appeal against the judgment.

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