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BBC Focus on Africa's Sola Odunfa in Abuja
"The Senate contract probe may be a signal to President Olusegun Obasanjo and his ministers"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Brawl in Nigerian assembly
National Assembly building in Abuja
Fighting broke out in the Lower House
MPs in Nigeria's Lower House came to blows after a suggestion from one member that it should investigate corruption allegations against the house leadership.

The brawl followed the release on Wednesday of an official report of an investigation into corruption in the upper house, the Senate, which said the Senate leadership should be investigated by the police.

One Lower House MP was badly beaten, another was in tears and the house descended into chaos as others joined in the brawl before the house moved to a closed-door session.

Members with bloody noses and black eyes were escorted out of a back door of the chamber to prevent them being seen by the public or photographed by journalists.

Nigeria's National Assembly has been hit by a series of scandals ever since the country returned to democratic rule in May.

Resignation call

The seven-member committee investigating corruption in the Senate called on "the police and other appropriate security agencies... to investigate the issues highlighted in this report".

It also called on Senate President Chuba Okadigbo, his deputy Haruna Abubakar, and other officials to resign or be removed from their posts.

Accusations against Senate President
Bought another eight official cars for $290,000 bringing his total of official vehicles to 32
Spent $225,000 on garden furniture for his luxury government house
Spent $340,000 furnishing the home to his taste, $120,000 over the authorised budget
The unauthorised purchased a massive generating and inflated the price to $135,000
Accepted a secret payment of $208,000 from public funds
It accused the Senate leadership of gross abuses of power, flagrant disregard of rules and personal enrichment.

The report said Senate President Chuba Okadigbo had taken charge of the process of issuing contracts, benefited directly from awarding them and personally enriched himself.

"All these lapses constitute an abuse of office and a serious indictment of the Senate president for which he cannot avoid personal liability," the report said.

It also gave a list of accusations against the Senate Deputy President Haruna Abubaka and other Senate leaders.

Recommendations

"These shortcomings all emanated from the disregard of laid down procedure and rules by the leadership of the National Assembly," the report said.

Senators should follow rules scrupulously.

"While Senators may properly recommend contractors like other Nigerians to the appropriate organs, they should not get directly involved. In all cases they should disclose their pecuniary interest."

The report recommended that the fleet of cars given to the Senate president should be cut back to 12.

The Senate is to meet on Thursday to consider the report.

Series of scandals

A number of scandals have tarnished the Assembly's first year.

In November last year the former Senate president, Evan Enwerem was impeached following months of allegations and rumours that he had lied about his age and academic qualifications.

In July last year the then Lower House Speaker, Salisu Buhari, stood down when he admitted having lied about his qualifications.

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Nigeria : a year of democracy
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See also:

11 Nov 99 | Africa
Nigeria confronts corruption
08 Apr 00 | Africa
Nigeria plane row takes off
10 Jun 99 | Africa
Nigeria purges military
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