National Assembly members took N17b bribe, says former Finance Minister,Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
By Bimbo Alao
Members of the National Assembly, (Senate and House of Representatives) took a whooping N17b bribe to pass the 2015 budget, former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, has revealed.
The gory crime was committed between 2014 and 2015 when the two houses were led by current Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal and David Mark, who was the Senate President. The leadership of the National Assembly at that time was dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP). The bribe was padded into the 2015 budget, revealed Okonjo-Iwealla. The revelation was revealed in Okonjo-Iweala’s new book, “Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines” monitored by Irohinoodua.
The revelation was contained on page 80. According to Okonjo-Iweala, the loot was cleverly padded in the 2015. It was expected that the funds would later be transferred to the members of the National Assembly through the leadership.
Okonjo-Iweala said the budget for the legislators was formerly N20 billion initially, but was reduced to N17 billion. The former Minister said in the publication “By the time we presented budget on December 16, 2014, the oil prices has further fallen down to $58 per barrel. We were prepared and knew we had to trigger the additional expenditure and revenue measure in 2015 to make the budget work. This would be tough, given that we had entered election year.
There have been consistent allegations that Nigerian lawmakers are notorious for giving bribe conditions before the passage of the budget or any bill into law. Okonjo-Iweala ‘s revelation appears to have confirmed popular belief among many Nigerians.
“Indeed, legislators initially refused to accept pay cuts to their regular N150 billion budget, despite dwindling revenues. But, eventually agreed to 13 percent cut against backdrop of Ministers accepting voluntary 50 percent to their basic salaries.
According to her “In a tough session with the National Assembly ad-hoc committee on budget (made up chairs of Finance committee and Appropriation Committee of both chambers and other leaders of National Assembly), an additional N20 billion was reintroduced as election expenses for the National Assembly members.
She said further “We insisted that the amount should be dropped because it nullified the 13 percent cut to their statutory budget, but managed N20 billion figure by only N3 billion to N17. This become the price to have 2015 budget passed.”
But it was not clear as at the time of filling this report whether all members of the National Assembly benefited from the N17 billion budget padding.