Two ranking members of the 8th National Assembly have attacked a former Minister of Finance and Coordinator of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi okonjo-Iweala, for accusing the National Assembly, led by its then leadership, of collecting N17 billion before passing the 2016 Budget.
Okonjo-Iweala, in her book: “Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines,” accused the National Assembly of insisting on N20 billion bribe to pass the Budget aside their N150 billion annual budget.
She said the administration of then President Goodluck Jonathan was finally arm twisted into approving N17 billion.
But reacting to the allegation, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and then spokesperson of the Senate during the period alluded to by Okonjo-Iweala, faulted the position of the former Minister.
Gbajabiamila, the minority leader in the 7th Assembly, said lawmakers had a running battle with Okonjo-Iweala and her aides over the budget because they fused in their own projects to the detriment of some lawmakers.
He said Okonjo-Iweala also had aides who wanted to run for seats in the National Assembly, thus loading the budget with their own projects.
He said this was a sour point in the relationship between the former minister and members.
Gbajabiamila added that the “unfair” arrangement made lawmakers to demand that many projects be sited in their constituencies as well, being the elected representatives of the people.
The majority leader said it was wrong of the former minister to tag it a bribe, adding: “However, my hunch is that being an election year, members might have wanted several projects sited in their constituencies so that they could have something to campaign on.
“It is wrong to portray that members were given money for passage of the budget.”
Abaribe said: “I don’t think the former finance minister meant that the money was a bribe.
“I think it is the media that are insinuating that she bribed the lawmakers.
“She said the Federal Government gave extra funding to the National Assembly.
“The media should look at the National Assembly budget for that year and see whether it was above N150 billion before making insinuations.”