* House summons CUPP spokesman
Udora Orizu in Abuja
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has debunked allegation that it offered a $10 million bribe to some members of the House of Representatives to see to the speedy passage of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill.
This was as the Ad hoc committee investigating the allegation has given the spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties, (CUPP), Ikenga Ugochinyere, till next Thursday to appear before it with evidence of inducement as alleged by him or face parliamentary contempt.
Ugochinyere recently alleged that the American billionaire, Bill Gates, offered the House of Representatives $10 million for the passage of the controversial legislation.
But, speaking on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation before the House Ad hoc committee yesterday, Gates, who was represented by the Foundation’s Country Director, Paulin Basinga, described such allegations as entirely false and without merit, saying there was no interaction whatsoever between himself and the parliament.
Basinga said the Foundation has not offered any financial incentives to any member of Nigeria’s legislative branch for the passage of the bill nor has it offered any grant to organisations in Nigeria in connection with the same.
He explained that in Nigeria, the Foundation’s focus is on improving the quality of life for the Nigerian people, and that the foundation is working closely with many partners in achieving that goal.
According to him, “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recently been made aware of an allegation circulating in certain elements of the Nigerian media that the foundation was involved in a payment purportedly made to the Nigeria House of Representatives.
“The Foundation adheres to strict ethical and legal guidelines across all areas of its operations. What drives the Foundation’s work is the simple and compelling belief that all lives have equal value, and that everyone deserves to lead a healthy productive life. The Foundation works in very diverse settings around the globe in a nonpartisan fashion, consistent with strict US private foundation restrictions on political and legislative engagement.”
However, appearing before the panel yesterday, a legal representative to the CUPP spokesman, Tochukwu Uhazurike, told the panel that his client didn’t come to the hearing because he had filed a law suit challenging the legal ground of the committee to summon him for investigation, adding that “in line with the principles of natural justice, the Speaker cannot be a judge in his own case.”
Responding, the committee Chairman, Hon. Henry Nwawuba, told the lawyer that the committee invited Ugochinyere and not his lawyer, as he personally made the allegation.
The lawmakers said they cannot allow any lawyer or legal representative to speak to them on his behalf, insisting that the man who alleged must come forward to prove his allegation.
The committee urged the lawyer to advise his client to come forward with the prove of his allegation as that will also help the House to expose any of its members who must have taken the said bribe thereby bringing it to disrepute.
Nwawuba said: “We have a mandate to investigate the allegation by your client, and any attempt in whatever manner to derail it will be met with the full weight of the parliament. You cannot bring a letter to the House on the day of an investigation in an attempt to stop it.”