Nigeria opposition in walk out over arms scandal

The protesting lawmakers belong to the All Progressive Congress (APC), the country's main opposition party which has called for a probe into the scandal.

Nigeria opposition in walk out over arms scandal

World Bulletin / News Desk

Nigeria's opposition lawmakers walked out of the parliament chamber on Tuesday as a debate over a controversial $9.3 million arms deal was called off after a voice vote.

The protesting lawmakers belong to the All Progressive Congress (APC), the country's main opposition party which has called for a probe into the scandal.

"We believe that it was in national interest that parliament should look at the issues surrounding the shady arms deal but some people frustrated a motion to let this happen," minority leader in the parliament Femi Gbaja told Anadolu Agency.

"Our colleagues in national interest staged a walkout to convey the message to our people that we are totally against the decision," he said.

On September 5, South African authorities seized a private jet – allegedly owned by President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Ago Oritsejafor – loaded with an undeclared $9.3 million in cash.

Pretoria said the money was meant for illegal arms purchase. Two Nigerians and an Israeli were arrested in connection with the arms deal.

Oritsejafor, a staunch ally of Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, has owned up to being the owner of the jet, which he said had been leased out but denied knowledge of the illegal transaction.

Nigeria has remained tight-lipped on the issue, which has sparked off a heated controversy in the country which battles a five-year insurgency by Boko Haram militant group.

As the parliament resumed for plenary on Tuesday, opposition lawmaker Ismaila Kawu brought a motion for the issue to be debated, a move supported by APC legislator Jumoke Okoya-Thomas.

But lawmakers of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) immediately opposed the motion, leading to a rowdy and tense atmosphere.

A voice vote on the issue was called by the Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha with those against the debate winning.

"The voice vote was a fraud," Kawu, who raised the motion, told AA.

But Hon Beni Lar, a female lawmaker from the north-central Plateau State, said that "what happened was democracy in action".

"There is nothing fraudulent about it," he told AA.

The Nigerian Muslim community, meanwhile, has called for a thorough probe into the scandal, which it described as an attempt to "covertly undermine national security."

"Was it a mere coincidence that it was the private jet of the President of CAN, a kinsman of President Jonathan, who has consistently advocated that the government has not been doing enough to tackle the insurgency in the northern parts of the country...that was used by the contractors of arms procurement?" the Conference of Islamic Organization (CIO), an amalgam of Muslim groups and scholars, said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

The CIO, headed by Sheikhs Abdurrahman Ahmad and Abdullahi Shuaib, said it "takes exception to the way the government tries to cover up this illegal transaction" and called for a through probe into the details of the "embarrassing" situation.

On Monday, Jama'atu Nasrul Islam (JNI) and Muslim Ummah of Southwest Nigeria also called for an investigation into the scandal.

Oritsejafor and leaders across the northern region have repeatedly traded blame for chronic insecurity, especially regarding the Boko Haram crisis.

He believes the insurgency is driven by an agenda to Islamize Nigeria – claims refuted even by other Christian clerics who have accused the firebrand preacher of dragging CAN into partisan politics.

The Nigerian Catholic Church has pulled out of the influential Christian body after disagreeing with Oritsejafor's handling of certain national issues.

Nigeria remains in the throes of insecurity blamed largely on a Boko Haram insurgency that has killed thousands, shattered businesses and displaced millions across the country's northeastern region.

Last Mod: 24 Eylül 2014, 10:02
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