“The content of this petition is about 85 per cent factual, there is no way to pretend as if we don’t know most of these allegations.”
Allegations of corruption leveled against Governor Jonah Jang split the Plateau House of Assembly on Wednesday leading to a rowdy session.
A group, known as “Plateau Patriotic Front,” had petitioned the Assembly with details of allegations of N20 billion misappropriations by Mr. Jang.
The group claimed it sent copies of the petition to all the lawmakers. The petition was subsequently made the number one item on the order paper of Wednesday’s sitting.
Opening the debate on the petition, the member representing Dengi constituency, Wokdung Abbas (Labour Party) said he had read the petition. He said the allegations were too severe and so the Assembly should invite the governor for explanations.
Mr. Abbas said the petitioner referred to the lawmakers as a “rubber stamp Assembly.”
“The petitioner called us names and also alleged that we have been bribed by the governor not to check the government.”
“The House must get to the bottom of this petition in the interest of the entire people of the state.
“We also need to probe the allegation to clear our names; the petitioners said we are clueless, docile, boot lickers and praise singer of government, so we need to clear our names as a house,” he said.
Mr. Abbas was, however, interrupted by Daylop Mancha (PDP, Jos South constituency), a known supporter of the governor, who raised a “point of order.”
The Speaker, Titus Alam, recognized the point of order; at which point the session became rowdy.
“It is obvious from the point of other raised that some members have not been served copies of the petition and it will not be fair to talk over it, we have to adjourn the house to discuss the petition on another date,” the speaker said.
However, other members insisted the petition be read.
Istifanus Muansat, a former speaker representing Pankshin North constituency said, “This attempt is not to discuss the petition against the governor, but at least let the house read the petition formally before the house and then we can shift the discussion.”
But the speaker insisted the petition cannot be mentioned until all members are served with copies.
Upon realising he had lost control of the House, the speaker announced an indefinite adjournment.
An aggrieved member, Abduallhi Garkuwa, who represents Mangu South told journalists shortly after the sitting that, “This petition is already a public document, why is the Speaker frustrating our attempt to discuss it. The claim that some members are not served copies is only an attempt to frustrate members from discussing the issue.”
According to Mr. Garkuwa, “The content of this petition is about 85 per cent factual, there is no way to pretend as if we don’t know most of these allegations, the petitioners have stated the obvious facts, the governor is only buying time to kill the petition.”
“My annoyance is that the speaker had forced the house to adjourn without mentioning the petition but this kind of scandal is not the type we can sweep under the carpet, we must discuss it or we are not worth our value as legislators,” he said.
On his part, a former deputy speaker of the Assembly, Baba Ahmed, representing Jos North constituency said, “The missing N10 billion SURE-P fund mentioned in the petition is real. I am a member of the SURE-P committee of the house and I am not aware the whereabouts of the fund.”
“This is the fact the speaker is running away from, but whether he likes it or not anytime we reconvene again we must discuss this issue, we must probe the state government over this huge financial scam because we are talking of public fund here,” he added.
Other aggrieved members expressed their disappointment at the way the speaker adjourned the sitting.
The 24-member legislature is dominated by members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Lawmakers are being allegedly owed four months allowances and constituency funds, something observers believe is fuelling their anger at the governor.