Embattled chairman of the House of Representatives capital market committee, Herman Hembe, stood down today over accusations he solicited N44 million bribe from the Security and Exchange Commission, in an scandal that once more steered the House into the blaze of fierce public anger.
The other members of the committee are resigning too, Mr. Hembe said, in an address to the House Tuesday, at a crucial session convened to help roll back national fury that have attended the allegations.
The allegations, made on Thursday by the Director General of the capital market regulator, Arunma Oteh, are to be investigated by the House Ethics and Privileges committee, under an interim chairman, Samson Osagie(Edo, ACN), and the findings made known in 14 days.
The capital market public hearing, at which the accusations were made, will continue under an ad hoc committee named today by speaker, Aminu Tambuwal. The new committee will be headed by Ibrahim Tukur Sudi(PDP, Taraba state).
The measures, racked together after series of meetings between Mr. Hembe and the leadership over the weekend, appeared somewhat prepared, and was clearly targeted at dousing public anger and proving to a distrustful public that the House had no tolerance for corruption.
Mr. Hembe was first to speak as the house convened, reaffirming his innocence and willingness to face inquiry, and announcing his resignation. “I have not, and will not let you down,” he told his colleagues. “I want to put on record that I demanded no bribe and took no bribe.”
The remarks were followed by a motion by the House Chief Whip, Ishaku Bawa, calling for the house to accept the decision, and to name an ad hoc committee as well as mandate the Ethics committee to probe the allegation of bribery against Mr. Hembe and the committee.
But in announcing his stepping down to the applause of his colleagues, Mr. Hembe added a new twist to the nauseating episode, dispelling accusation he asked for kickbacks, but accusing Ms. Oteh of offering him a N30 million bribe.
“I made no attempt to collect any bribe, rather I worked hard to avoid the offer of such by the SEC DG,” he said, lifting a supposed internal memo of the exchange commission, in possession of the committee to back the claims.
The documents obtained by Premium Times offer a rare glimpse into the workings that have seemingly blurred the line between the legislature as the over sighting arm, and the government bodies meant to come under the regulation of the lawmakers.
In the commission’s first internal memo, dated March 1, 2012, The DG, Ms. Oteh, is informed by a departmental head named Hassan Mamman, about the letter of the House committee, informing the commission of the public hearing. The official suggested that the commission consider to “assist” the committee by “co-sponsoring” the three-week long event.
“It is our considered opinion doing this will be of immense benefit to the nation’s capital market,” Mr. Hassan wrote. Ms Oteh advised contacts could be made to “cement our relationship with NASS” and the fact that the hearing will “favour the purpose of our capital market.”
A follow-up letter on March 9, purportedly written after the committee had been contacted, told Ms. Oteh of how the lawmakers “welcomed this development and accordingly forwarded a budget estimate.” This was against House practice under which adequate provisions are made for all hearings of the House.
Most strikingly, the memo recommended that “two items only” from the budget be sponsored. That included live coverage(N26.2 million) and Secretariat needs(N4.2 million) totaling NN30.4 million, which Mr. Hembe referred to.
On that letter, Ms. Oteh minuted “You may consider.”