A bribe of $10,000 allegedly shared to each of about 70 senator-elects by one of the aspirants gunning for the president of the senate in the 10th Assembly has unsettled the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
The party has frowned at the speed at which interested aspirants have moved ahead to canvas for the National Assembly leadership even when general elections have not been concluded.
Moreso, the party has said it has not decided on the zoning formula as it’s still far ahead.
Speaking with THE WHISTLER on Saturday, APC spokesman, Felix Morka said “I am not aware of the money and so I can’t speak.
“As for the zoning, the party is yet to decide on it. There’s still time. When the party meets and decides, surely it will be communicated.”
However, party sources said the leadership of the APC is shocked at the huge amount of money which was allegedly shared by one of the aspirants with sources saying the aspirant is from the South-South geopolitical zone.
But Morka stressed that the party will take a position and certainly zone the principal offices when the time is right with party sources saying the APC is worried over the development as it could lead to a repeat of the 2015 episode if aspirants do not adhere to the zoning arrangement being expected.
The South-East geopolitical zone has called for the zoning of the position to the region for the sake of equity.
Already, the zone has two aspirants who have publicly indicated their interest. Former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Kalu, was the first to announce his interest.
The current Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, has also indicated his interest.
Top party members such as Osita Okechukwu have called for the APC leadership to zone the position to the South East geopolitical zone.
Although the president-elect has shown little interest in the matter and a few weeks ago distanced himself from anointing any candidate, party sources have warned that lack of zoning could leave the contest wide open that could be exploited by the opposition parties.
Yet with an aspirant being accused of doling out $10,000 to each of senators-elect already, there are fears that the contest may be exploited to deny the Southeast geopolitical zone the position.
On Saturday, a group called Campaign for Democracy, CD, called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, to immediately investigate and arrest the aspirant behind the alleged $10,000 bribe.
A statement issued by the CD Secretary General, Ifeanyi Odili, tasked the EFCC and ICPC to probe the alleged bribery it said involved an aspirant and 70 newly elected senators.
CD said in the statement that, “We have it through our impeccable source that some ranking Senators have started using their ill-gotten wealth to woe the returning Senators and the new members who have just received their certificates of return from the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC last week with dollars and other hard currencies in other to win their votes when electing principal officers of the NASS.
“If we allow these politicians to use the money to induce the newly elected members of the 10th National assembly, the nation will not really get it right again.
“We are afraid that such practice could plunge the nation into another round of quagmire and the leadership of the National Assembly will not be able to join hands with the Executive to fight corruption headlong since they are products of corruption. It takes a corrupt Senator to lobby positions with money,” the group said.
CD added that, “We have reliably gathered that aspirants for the position of the Senate Presidency have started reaching out to both returning and newly elected Senators with a huge amount of hard currencies with a view to getting their vote on the assumption of office come June 2023.
“The EFCC and the ICPC should, as a matter of urgency, swing into action and probe the disturbing phenomenon to save our nascent democracy.
“The anti-graft agencies may also ensure that no Senator that is facing corruption charges or has pending cases in court is allowed to take a sensitive position in the 10th Senate.
“They must all be thoroughly checked and cleared before they are allowed to contest any of these sensitive positions, most importantly, that of the Senate President,” the statement said.
While noting that some of those who have indicated their interest for the position still have corruption cases with the anti-graft agencies, it expressed worry that the aspirant behind the alleged bribe is working against the zoning formula of the party.
It said, “Most worrisome, some of the Senators are still having cases at the courts ranging from money laundering and other corruption cases.
“”This, we are poised to resist, if we must rid Nigeria of corruption which has become very endemic in our body system. We want Senators whose track records at the Senate are unblemished.
“We wonder why the aspirant who is already giving out dollars failed to queue behind the zoning arrangements which will give room for equity, fairness and Justice.
“Drawing from the above, the anti-graft agencies must live up to people’s expectations by moving in and foreclosing any possibility of turning the 10th Senate into a den of corruption.
“It is critical to note that the Senate presidency and other sensitive positions are not for sale if we want the nation to come out of its economic doldrum: stagnation or depression,” the group stated.
Apart from Kalu and Umahi, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, has also indicated his interest.
Senator Barau Jibrin from the North West has also indicated his interest for the National Assembly position.