Re: Bankole, Deputy Buy 18 Bullet Proof Vehicles

I wish to provide information that can enlighten and put things in proper perspective and context for reasonable exchanges by your readers. I know many abuses would have been written based on sentiment, mindset or pursuant of a Pull Him Down agenda. Quite expected for any public had made the pursuit of accountability and good governance an agenda. (See Bankole, Deputy Buy 18 Bullet-proof Vehicles – Each Costs N85m)

From information available to us we expected attacks following Speaker Bankole’s exposition on the quantum of funds available to leaders of Niger Delta for development without much accountability and good governance.

We know that certain governors held meetings to deal with that ‘boy’. Again when Bankole blamed the civil servants for being responsible for non implementation of budget leading to N500 billion appropriated funds lying idle in Central Bank of Nigeria vault, we were waiting for a backlash as in Nigerian context Bankole is crossing the line in his whistle blowing in the interest of the people on Nigeria.

 But we never envisaged that the attacks will be hinged on lies and falsehood using a blackmailer and one on a vendetta mission. The story generating the furore which some of my traducers on the internet are sniggering and gloating about is not only speculative but lack facts for even a hatchet job that it is. But before dwelling on that let me established the identity and antecedent of the writers of the story.

Mr. Leon Usigbe, the co-author of the piece with Taiwo Adisa was a Vanguard reporter was appointed by the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Alhaji Bello Masari as Special Assistant on Print Media. At the expiration of Masari’s tenure, Usigbe returned to Vanguard covering the House of Representatives. On April 23, 2009, he sent a letter, using Vanguard Official letterhead paper to request for accommodation assistance of N800, 000.00 from the Speaker. (Scanned copy of letter to be posted later) The Speaker mandated the former Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Kayode Akinmade to treat and Usigbe was assisted to the tune of N200, 000. But he was not satisfied and decided to blackmail the Speaker. He wrote a front page lead story in Vanguard titled “EFCC Quizzes Rep Speaker” on Monday August 18, 2008 that was found out to be outright falsehood.

We wrote a rebuttal and Vanguard compelled Usigbe to write the true story based on our rebuttal the very next day on their front page. Vanguard subsequently investigated his unethical behaviour and he was sacked. He was later employed by Tribune and posted to the House of Representatives. We complained to Tribune of his blackmailing antecedent and he was subsequently withdrawn from the National Assembly. This is the character of the reporter that was hired by those oppose to Bankole’s whistle blowing. 

There are Vanguard and Tribune persons on most of these groups and they can attest to what I have just written about Usigbe. His co author Taiwo Adisaalso has some unsavoury background and tendencies for hatchet jobs. Adisa then a correspondent of Tribune was appointed a Special Assistant (Print) and later, Chief Press Secretary to the former Senate President, Senator Adolphus Wabara. On the resignation of his principal, he returned to the stable of Tribune and found his way to the Senate as a reporter and was recently promoted to the position of the Group Political Editor, a platform he now uses to pursue a sinister and sponsored agenda.

In recent times, he has authored many write-ups derogatory of the person and office of the Speaker, the most resent being his story on the disagreement between the Senate and the House of Representatives on the issues of chairman and co-chairman between the committees of both chambers set up for the constitutional review. In that piece, playing to the tune of his sponsors, he blamed the dispute in general on the House of Representatives and in particular, on Rt. Hon. Bankole, who is not even a member of the committee.

It is interesting to note that Adisa has never authored any piece critical of the Senate or its principal officers where he is primarily assigned in the National Assembly.  The likelihood is that he got induced to always look the other way. As a former media aide to the senate leadership(Wabara) that was consumed in an alleged corruption mess, still pending in Court of law, we know where Adisa is coming from and sympathize with him for working for those that perpetually want to continue ripping Nigeria off.

Now that we know the writers antecedent, let us say categorically that it is a lie that Bankole and his deputy bought 18 bullet proof vehicles and I challenge any one to provide proof of such. If your readers can recall, the story itself is over a year old only twisted with the figure 18 and the speculation of governorship ambition.( We all know where that is coming from, don’t we…). 

This same story of buying bullet proof vehicles was published in similar circumstance by some Sunday Newspapers on November 2, 2008 over a year ago when it became apparent that the allegations of fraud in purchase of Peugeot 407 cars cannot be established. The House of Representatives, through Hon. Ita Enang, the House Committee chairman on Rules and Business, addressed a Press Conference same day to convincingly dismiss the issue as the vehicles ordered to be purchase then (certainly not 18) were in consonant with the law and very cost effective..(I will post part of the text  of the press conference in response to whatever misgiving anyone has about the issue) The very next day newspapers carried this rebuttal and that was the end of the matter until now when some forces not finding any issue to attack Bankole on decided to hire confirmed a confirmed blackmailer to write falsehood.

At this point I must confess not to have read any of the response following this story but hope the reasons adduced in the text of the press conference then will help in alleviating the concerns of those who might genuinely want to know what is going on. Here we go………….

 The media on Sunday November 2, 2008 was awash with stories of some contracts entered into by the National Assembly on the purchase of Convoy Vehicles for Mr. Speaker and other principal officers of the House of Representatives. This and other purchases of office equipment were targeted at destabilizing the House and portraying it as imprudent in its financial dealings. It is now pertinent to state clearly the true position of things and put detractors to shame. Coming on the heels of the failing plot of alleged corruption in the N2.3 billion 407 car purchase for committee work, it is yet another attempt to cast aspersion on the work of the House with a view to its destabilise it and prevent it from going on with its legislative agenda in the area of oversights of the Power Sector, Energy/ NNPC and Finance Sector.

The question everyone should ask at this point is: is there anything wrong with the purchase of the Convoy vehicles?
1.    First let us say that no law was breached in the purchase of the Convoy Vehicles. Indeed, it was done in fulfilment of the law. According to the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission Act and certain Political Public and Judicial Office Holders Act, the President, Vice President, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker are to be provided with stipulated number of vehicles in their convoy.
2.    The number for the Principal Officers of the National Assembly (Senate President and Speaker) is 8 (Eight) by RMFC Act which state clearly that this provision is due to the “demand of their respective offices and the sensitive nature of the officials functions they perform”
3.    The vehicles that have been ordered purchase was equally provided for in the 2008 Appropriation Act in the Capital Budget of National Assembly under “Purchase of Vehicles for Presiding Officers”.  So the purchase is legal and legitimately appropriated for in the Budget.  It must be stated that the vehicles in the convoy are not personal vehicles of the officers but government property for any occupier of the office.
4.    This lead to an inquiry into the justifiability of the purchase.  From the time the Speaker assume office last year in November, till July when the vehicles were eventually approved to be ordered, three security memos were written by security officials attached to the Speaker to the relevant authorities of their inability to effectively protect Nigeria’s Number 4 citizen due to lack of equipment, vehicles and his residency in his 3-bedroom personal residence instead of official quarters..
5.    While the Speaker and his Deputy continue to resist approval to purchase these government vehicles at the risk of their lives, all kind of ad-hoc arrangements were in place.  As noted in one security memo, private vehicles of officers are often hijacked for official duty.   The Speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also resort to hiring or getting vehicles from friends or state government to complement what by law should have been provided whenever he is in Lagos or Ogun on official assignment.
6.    The staff car of both Speaker and his Deputy also breakdown frequently.  For the Speaker, the staff car is usually quickly taken to the State House Mechanic Workshop for repairs whenever the Speaker is in Chambers sitting while the Deputy have been embarrassed on at least twice on his way to Gombe when his staff car broke down and had to be towed back to Abuja!
7.    After such embarrassment and inconveniences with its attendant security implications, for Number 4 citizen, approval was given in July for the purchase of full complement of Convoy Vehicles as contained in the 2008 Budget.
8.    So the vehicles purchase was legitimate and necessary. The bullet proof vehicles (again not 18!) are part of the convoy vehicles. (Emphasis and underline mine)

 9.    Finally, VP, Senate President and all state governors use similar and even more expensive convoys. Why is Bankole being singled out condemnation for what is legal and legitimate.   

Read out then by Hon. Ita Enang, House Committee Chairman on Business and Rules.
So these are the issues devoid of sentiment and any agenda. And for those who think this kind of stories will stop Bankole from shouting about the appalling rot he is daily seeing in governance, they are dead wrong. This is a historical and constitutional role of Mr. Speaker and he is willing to sacrifice by absorbing this kind of attacks.

Chief Kayode Odunaro JP