PRESIDENT of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has denied the allegation that the leadership of the National Assembly and its members collected huge sums of money to pass the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill into law.
The Senate President said the report that he and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, collected bribe of $10m for members of the National Assembly to pass the PIB which President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law last week, was laughable.
The bill had raised dust after its passage by the National Assembly as it approved 3% for host communities despite calls from various quarters that the provisions made for host communities should be reviewed upward.
Lawan was accused of collecting $2m (N823m) bribe to pass the bill into law, while Gbajabiamila allegedly got $1.5 million (N617m) as bribe.
According to reports by an online news medium, payment of the monies was facilitated by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, alleging that each senator was paid $20, 000 (N8.2m) while members of the lower chamber (House of Representatives) were paid $5,000 (N2m) each.
However, Lawan while briefing State House correspondents after meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said while Nigeria’s constitution guaranteed freedom of expression, and Nigerians had the right to hold the leaders to account, it was not a licence to impugn on their character with unverifiable allegations.
He said, “But of course, bigger legacies will be that the orientation of Nigerians is such that they are free to say whatever they want to say about their government, about their leaders, and so on and so forth.
And that we have really established ourselves as an administration, where people can say anything or everything about the President about the administration about members of National Assembly, they call us names. And this is part of the intangible dividends of democracy.
“But we are determined to ensure that the space is wide open for everybody to say whatever he wants to say. But I will advise don’t say things that are bad because people are in the habit of doing that and recently somebody said $10 million was given to the Speaker and the Senate President to give to members of the National Assembly to pass three percent development fund. That is funny, but also very serious.
“I really want to take this opportunity to take exceptions to those kinds of unwarranted unprovable false and fake information being fed to the Nigerian public. And the danger people will face with this is you cause unnecessary damage to the reputation of people. I had an occasion to take someone to court because of this kind of thing about three months ago. But Nigerians are better judges and lawyers.
“So the freedom of expression is there, probably more than anywhere in the world. But I want to advise that Nigerians should always think about their leaders and their administration and their governments in a positive light.”