House speaker said to back independent probe of N44 million bribery allegation

Herman Hembe faces corruption allegation from SEC DG, Arunma Oteh

Speaker Aminu Tambuwal is said to be considering an independent probe of the N44 million bribery scandal rocking the House of Representatives, in a fevered run-up to Tuesday sitting when a decision is expected to be reached.

Some members told Premium Times an independent inquiry by an ad hoc committee migh be adopted to set aside the traditional House Ethics and Privileges investigations, in scouring for the details of a scandal that has horrified the nation, and shocked even the lawmakers.

Chairman, House Capital market committee, Herman Hembe, accused of corruption by the Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission, Arunma Oteh, met with the leadership of the house over the weekend and has insisted he never solicited N44 million as claimed by the DG, those familiar with the matter have told this newspaper.

Ms. Oteh alleged the demand – the first for N39 million and later for N5 million – were made ahead of the ongoing capital market committee public hearing, and the funds were purportedly meant to finance the sitting. House public hearings are funded by the house, and under the sixth assembly, the figure averaged at N5 million for each hearing.

Mr. Hembe, insiders say, has denied he asked for money, and again put himself up for investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission(ICPC).

The denials have hardly tempered the anxiety amongst the lawmakers ahead of the sitting on Tuesday at which the House spokesperson confirmed a decision would be reached. The issue is considered touchy and many members have refrained from commenting officially.

But sources say while some members back a probe by the Ethics committee of the house while the public hearing continues, many are pushing for an outright removal of Mr. Hembe to give way for an independent investigation.

The speaker, Mr. Tambuwal, is said to be in support of an independent inquiry.

On Monday, his spokesperson, Imam Imam, refused to comment on the issue, advising that everyone awaits the House’s decision.

“Things will be clear then,” Mr. Imam said.

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