An on-going probe of the controversial Centenary City Project by the House of Representatives Committee on the Federal Capital Territory ended in a fiasco on Friday.
The Chairman of the committee, Herman Hembe and the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim were locked in a war of words after Anyim objected to Hembe presiding over the hearing.
Anyim later walked out on the panel.
The immediate past Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Bala Mohammed had his own brush with Hembe whose conducted be branded as childish and unrepresentative.
The multi-billion dollar Centenary City Project was initiated by the Goodluck Jonathan Administration to mark the 100 years of the amalgamation of Nigeria’s Northern and Southern protectorates by the United Kingdom.
It was cited in Abuja.
The Reps Committee is probing alleged irregularities in the project implementation.
Anyim accused Hembe of harassing him because he (Anyim) refused to sack the former Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission, Ms Arunma Oteh as allegedly requested by Hembe after she accused Hembe of demanding bribe from her.
“When the former Managing Director of Security and Exchange Commission accused you of demanding bribe from her, you pushed for her sack and I refused to sack her as Secretary to Government of the Federation. I will not allow you to use the platform of this committee to victimise me,” Anyim charged as tension began to rise at the session yesterday.
Hember would not have that.
He shot back at Anyim, who had once served as Senate President saying:”Point of order, point of order, point of order. No, no, no, no, no.
“Hold on. The former Senate President cannot assume the chairmanship of the committee. It’s not fair. Please, sir, I have the privilege to be heard…”
Anyim: “Okay, let us not get overheated. Mr Chairman, distinguished Hon. members, let me just say briefly…”
Hembe: “Hold on, I am going to allow you to finish but hold on. Let me just say that we are a House of free laws, we are a House of order. We are a House of due process. This is not an avenue…. Let me just say to the former President of the Senate and the former SGF that in my opening remarks, I tried to show you courtesy…Please, don’t interrupt, as far as this hearing is concerned, I’m chairman here. I am chairman and I would not allow you to usurp that position!”
But the former Senate President was unrelenting.
He said: “Mr Chairman, you have been threatening to conduct this public hearing for over a year now. In fact, you ended last year with it and this year, you started again with it. You scheduled it for 27th of January and you later moved it to 1st of February and again moved it to 3rd of February.”
“Mr Chairman, we only discovered your game plan for all the postponements when you started sending messages to the Managing Director to come and see you privately. It was after all your efforts to get the Managing Director to come and see you privately failed that you confirmed this date.
I want you to know that nobody will see you privately, rather we are ready for the hearing.”
Anyim said Hembe should disqualify himself from sitting on the committee. “Mr. Chairman, you can handover to the Vice Chairman and excuse us so that hearing can proceed.”
But Hembe insisted on chairing the hearing.
What followed was Anyim walking out of the venue leaving his aides behind.
Anyim had earlier told the committee that the manner of his invitation as a former Chairman of the National Assembly was disrespectful and wondered why Hembe insisted on the probe when the Senate had concluded same.
The former Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, who initially declined to speak on the issue, faulted Hembe’s approach.
He said:”You’re putting the cart before the horse, we have procedures here. The minister of the FCT ( Mohammed Bello) is here, yet you’re behaving childishly.”
Efforts by members of the to make Mohammed withdraw his words fell on deaf ears.
“I will not take it back. You can take me to court,” he retorted.
Hembe chided Mohammed saying: “We expect that as an elder, as a Senator and a former Minister, your conduct should be above board.”
A member of the committee, Linus Okorie (Ebonyi State) was incensed as Hembe would not allow him to conclude his questions to the stakeholders present.
Hembe said that the Centenary Project comprising 1, 267 hectares was owned by two companies – Basic Start Limited and Company First Limited – with 10000 share capital each to two persons: Boma Ozobia and Paul Oki.
He questioned how two persons were allocated such a huge expanse of land.
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) he said, must provide the committee with answers at the next sitting which scheduled for Tuesday.