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Centenary City: A probe into Herman Hembe’s Misleading Report

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – As was foreseen and forewarned by many concerned observers at the beginning of Herman Hembe’s kangaroo hearing on the Centenary City project, the irascible lawmaker has shocked his colleagues in the House of Representatives.

The Committee Chairman on FCT produced a report from his recent, inconclusive public hearing. The report is essentially misleading, as its conclusions are not derived from the information made available to the Committee. The recommendations have been described as outlandish by embarrassed lawmakers from both chambers of the National Assembly, some of whom have since declared that Herman Hembe must have either written his report before the public hearing, or in spite of it.

It would be recalled that the controversial two-day public hearing was a complete fiasco. It was also publicly reported as one. The first day of the hearing saw former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, openly accusing the Chairman, Hon. Herman Hembe, of not following National Assembly procedures and protocols in determining stakeholders to be invited. Hembe was also accused of personal bias against the former SGF because of his refusal to use his office at the time to facilitate the sack of Arunma Oteh, the then Director-General of Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), who accused Hembe of demanding bribes from her. Hembe did not deny any the allegations, nor did he deny the further allegation that the purported hearing was consequent upon his failure to extort money from the management of Centenary City Plc (CCPLC), after repeated attempts.

Also on the first day of the kangaroo hearing, former Minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed frowned at Hembe’s heckling of the audience and his colleagues, wondering why he would not allow most Committee members and invited stakeholders to speak. The former Minister, who eventually lost his temper and threatened to walk out on the rowdy committee hearing, described Hembe as “childish” and called his seating as a farce.

It emerged that Committee Members had not been briefed by the Chairman. The members had also not received the written submissions of invited organizations like CCPLC and NEPZA, as well as relevant documentation from the FCTA, the Presidency and the Office of the SGF.

Matters got worse on the second day of the kangaroos hearing, when an aggrieved Committee member whose name was arbitrarily and summarily removed from the list of Committee members by the Chairman held up proceedings and heckled Hembe for nearly an hour. The latter was forced to suspend proceedings and go into a one-and-half hour closed door meeting with other members, after which the shortchanged colleague was readmitted. It turned out that Hembe had unilaterally excluded the said colleague because he felt that the latter might scuttle his plans.

The resumption of proceedings after the fracas saw an even more fiery and high handed Hembe. The lawyer of CCPLC who tried to raise an objection was walked out of the Committee room, escorted by security men. Most of Committee members, who tried to make contributions, asked for clarifications or requested that all the invited stakeholders be allowed to make their presentations, were overruled.

In the end, Chairman of the House Committee, Hon Herman Hembe, concluded his kangaroo hearing without the benefit of the information that would lead to rational outcomes. He relied on a dated and gazetted land swap agreement that had been overtaken by a subsequent order of Mr. President in whom all FCT land inheres; and who may determine and direct on its use at any time.  Based on a premeditated disregard of a lawful directive of Mr. President, which placed CCPLC under NEPZA, in a newly created Economic Free Zone within the FCT, Hembe has given Nigerians a report that serves no purpose whatsoever.

For reasons that may well verge on the swirling allegations of his serially demanding for bribes at every opportunity since he became a member of the National Assembly, Hembe may yet scandalize his fellow committee members and embarrass the National Assembly. His report even alleges, falsely, that duly paid compensations were not paid; notwithstanding the fact that all relevant documents on the matter were made available to the Committee.

It is instructive that the findings of the Senate Committee of FCT on the same issue, which took due recognizance of all the material facts, is completely at variance with Hembe’s disjointed and misleading report. Considering that Hembe was reported to have boasted to his associates just before the kangaroo hearing that “it is left for the Centenary City people to sink or swim after my report, since nobody wants to play ball,” it means that he is not bothered that his action is not in the national interest. He is also not bothered about putting both chambers of the National Assembly on the war path. But how long his grandstanding will last , remains to be seen.


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