The House of Representatives yesterday drew a battle line against the media over allegation that the lawmakers collected $30,000 bribe each to withdraw their support for the electoral amendment bill that altered the sequence of elections in the country.
The lawmakers subsequently described the publication as a slap on the faces of members of Legislature, even as they referred the matter to its Committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate the allegation. The decision followed a motion by Hon. Danburam Nuhu who described the allegation as an attempt to discredit the House as an institution.
He said, “I’m beginning to worry that my constituents now doubt my integrity. I want the House to support this matter so that the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges can investigate this matter, which is alleged to tarnish our image as members of Parliament.”
The lawmakers who spoke on the motion chided the media for such publications, and threatened to sue any media organisation that published the story for defamation. Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, insisted on taking the matter to court to determine the truth behind the report, noting that such report is injurious to the reputation of members.
Gbajabiamila, who denied knowledge of money changing hands, said: “It is time for the House to nail the issue. There is need for reaccreditation of journalists covering the National Assembly. “Let me make it abundantly clear that bribery and corruption is a criminal case. You don’t speculate on a matter that can be so injurious and damaging to someone’s character. This is fake news. If anyone has received any money, I am not aware of this. This is a matter that is ripe for litigation.”
Similarly, Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf lamented that the publication was not done by a particular medium and traditional media but was also on various social media platforms hence the need to investigate the allegation. On his part, Hon. Hassan Saleh described the publication as “irresponsible journalism” and stressed the need to sensitise the public about the falsity of the report.
Hon. Aliyu Madaki chided the journalists for not being sure about the veracity of the story before publishing it. “I am worried the way journalists write and publish stories without confirmation. We are not corrupt. We did not collect any money. No amount of allegation will stop us from performing our duties as legislators,” he said.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara, however, advised that the matter be referred to the House Committee on Ethnics and Privileges whose duty it is to investigate and advise the House on the next line of action.
“It is the Ethics and Privileges Committee that will look into the matter to know whether the House’s privilege has been breached. I don’t think it is right to go to court,” he said.