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From John Adams, Minna
There is uneasy calm at the Niger State House of Assembly following a petition by a group under the auspices of “Group for Good Governance and say no to Corruption in Niger state” calling for the immediate resignation of the speaker, Ahmed Marafa Guni and his deputy, Hussaini Ibrahim for allegedly collecting the sum of N10million each as part payment for transport, furniture, security and housing allowances to themselves.
This, the group said is contrary to the provision of section 111 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic under the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, which clearly stated that “the speaker and the deputy speaker of the state House of Assembly are not entitled to be paid transport, vehicle, furniture, housing and security allowances”.
The group, in a letter of petition to the House of Assembly dated September 22, 2017 and signed by four of its members, Mohammed Abubakar, Idris Musa Isah, Abdullahi Jibrin and Shehu Usman Abubakar a copy which was made available to Daily Sun in Minna alleged that the Speaker and his Deputy had fraudulently used their position to divert funds to themselves in the name of payment of such allowances which they are not entitled to, “because the law states that both the speaker and deputy speaker are to be provided with both official vehicles, official quarters, furniture and security personnel”.
In petition which was sent through the Clerk of the House, Alhaji Abdullahi Kagara, the group alleged that in July 2015, the speaker and his deputy “illegally, unlawfully and unconstitutionally collected N10million as part payment for transport, furniture and housing allowances through payment voucher No.2001 under the head No. 413/12, dated 6th July, 2015”.
According to the group, the payment was effected through the state House of Assembly cheque No. NGHA/00001473, adding that “we also discovered that the sum N500, 000 was paid to the speaker as security allowance for the month of March, 2016 through a letter No. NGHA/FIN/B/10 dated 14th March. 2016 and addressed to the manager, Zenith Bank PLC Minna”.
The said letter, the group further alleged, instructed the bank to transfer the said amount from the House of Assembly account No. 1014593139 into the speaker’s account No. 5332091873 which is domiciled with the Fidelity Bank PLC, Minna.
The same amount of N500, 000, the petitioners also claimed was paid as security allowance to the deputy speaker in May and December 2016, saying that “these were contained in letters No. NGHA/FIN/B/01, dated 21st December, 2016 and addressed to the manager, Zenith Bank PLC instructing the transfer of the same amount into the deputy speaker’s account No. 5332091567 which is also domiciled in Fidelity Bank, Minna.
“We therefore wish to inform the Members of Niger State House of Assembly that the continuous payment of all these allowances to both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional which amount to abuse of office and corruption” it stated.
The group pointed out that for the purpose of clarity “we submitted further that the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, in compliance with the proscribed salaries and allowances of categories of public officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the members of the House of Assembly together with the speaker and deputy speaker is clearly spelt out.
“Accordingly we refer you to pages 31,34,36,37 and items ii, xvii, viii, xiv of the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission package of Salaries and Allowances of public office holders where their entitlements are contained”.
The group maintained that the speaker and his deputy cannot claimed to be ignorant of this provision of the constitution as lawmakers stressing that, “in Niger state what was proscribed by the commission was passed into Law that was contained in the Statutory Offices (Emoluments) Law 2007 in which Speaker and Deputy contained in the first and second column of part 11 of the schedule of the said Law.
“Under this law, it is clearly stated that both the speaker and the deputy speaker are not entitled to be paid transport, vehicle, furniture housing and security allowances, so the question is that why should they be collecting these allowances when they are provided with official vehicle, security personnel and official residence”.
The group stated further that in this era when the present administration at all levels is claiming to be fighting corruption, “the involvement of these highly placed principal officers in this act of gross financial misconduct must not be left unchecked”.
The petitioners declared that their integrity is at stake as leaders of the state Assembly and therefore should resign from their positions to allow for proper investigation into the allegations.
The group further warned that failure to resign their positions; they would have no option than to forward their grievances and observations to the relevant security agencies including the EFCC for immediate action.
When contacted, the clerk of the House, Alhaji Abdullahi Kagara admitted to have received such petition but declined to speak further on the matter.
When Daily Sun visited the House to get the reaction of the Speaker, Ahmed Marafa, he refused to grant audience on the matter.