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Centenary City Project: Former SGF Pius Anyim walks out on Reps Probe Panel

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The Members of the House of Representatives Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Friday disagreed with two former principal officers of the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan over the $18 billion Centenary City project.

The Reps Committee is probing alleged irregularities in the project implementation.

Heated argument began when the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, and the former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed, appeared before the committee in Abuja.

Anyim later walked out on the panel.

The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Herman Hembe (Benue-APC) alleged several infractions in ‎the agreement signed by the office of the SGF and management of the Centenary City Company Plc.

According to him, the spirit of the said agreement violated the ‎Federal Government Gazette on Land Swap Programme, which ought to be the guideline for the project.

The committee also established that the former minister signed the Right of Occupancy and the Certificate of Occupancy of the land on the same day in violation of provisions of the gazette.

According to Hembe, the lifespan of the project implementation as contained in the gazette should be between 24 to 48 months as against 60-120 weeks stated in the contractual agreement.

He also noted that the private developers were not allowed to sell any portion of the land until it attains 35 per cent  development level, but the company was also granted a waiver in that regard.

The chairman added that that there was no evidence that the company paid the 15 per cent of $18 billion expected as initial payment for the development of the city.

Reacting, Anyim accused the chairman of the committee of being “insensitive, rude; conducting a public hearing with ulterior motive’’.

Anyim expressed reservations over the invitation sent to him by the Clerk of the committee, saying that the manner of invitation degrades his person as a former Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly.

“Mr Chairman, if you want me to appear before you, I have no issue with that; but I cannot accept any attempt to subject me to disrespect.”

“You cannot ask a committee clerk to invite me to appear before you, it is unacceptable, even you, Mr Chairman, you are not qualified to sign such letter of invitation to me.”

“Please if you need the attention of any former chairman of the National Assembly, get the Clerk of the National Assembly to sign such letter,” Anyim said.

According to The Nation,

Anyim accused Hembe of harassing him because he (Anyim)  refused to sack the former Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), 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.

Hembe 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.

Also speaking, the former minister noted that the committee had inadequate understanding of the project.

Mohammed said that he received a letter from the Presidency on October 21, 2013, which permitted him to vary former president Goodluck Jonathan’s initial directive on the project.

‎Argument, however, erupted among members when a member of the committee, Rep. Linus Okorie (Ebonyi-PDP), moved a point of order that was ruled out of order by the chairman of the committee.

Okorie observed that a later Presidential directive on the project allowed the use of government funds, as against the chairman’s belief that it was meant to be a 100 per cent private sector investment.

The chairman noted during the hearing that Jonathan approved the project as purely private sector driven and guided by the Land Swap Gazette of the FCT.

The Centenary Company Limited is handling the development of 1,267 hectares of land, as a memorial city for the amalgamation of Nigeria in 2014.

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