Hon Femi Gbajabiamila is fighting to become Speaker of the 9th House of Representatives. However, allegations bordering on fraud continue to imperil his path to the throne.

Majority Leader of the House of Representatives and candidate for the position of Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, is currently fighting the battle of his life just days before the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly.

For years, Gbajabiamila, 56, has been accused of perpetrating fraud in the United States where he obtained a law degree and where he practiced until his return to Nigeria to join partisan politics from the platform of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD).

According to SaharaReporters, Gbajabiamila was found guilty of fraud by the US Supreme Court of Georgia in February 2007 and was suspended from practicing law in the US for the offence.

Gbajabiamila has been making consultations ahead of his speakership run  [Twitter/@femigbaja] Gbajabiamila has been making consultations ahead of his speakership run [Twitter/@femigbaja]

Specifically, SaharaReporters states that Gbajabiamila, with bar number 288330, was suspended from practicing law in the US for 36 months on February 26, 2007, by the highest court in the State of Georgia. 

According to the story, Gbajabiamila admitted to withholding $25,000 from his client before the court. 

The $25,000 sum was received by Gbajabiamila as damages claims for his client. But the client didn’t receive the money at the time, the report states.

The Georgia Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled on Gbajabiamila as follows, according to the SaharaReporters story:

“This disciplinary matter is before the Court on the Respondent Femi Gbaja’s Petition for Voluntary Discipline which was filed under Bar Rule 4-227 (b) (2) before a formal complaint was issued. In his petition, Gbaja admits violating Rule 1 .l 5 ( l) of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct set forth in Bar Rule 4-102 (d).

"Although a violation of this rule is punishable by disbarment. Gbaja requests the imposition of a 24-month suspension. He agrees, however, to accepting a suspension of up to 36 months. The State Bar has no objection to the acceptance of Gbaja’s petition so long as the suspension is no less than 36 months in duration.

“Gbaja, who has only been a member of the Bar since 2001, admits that he accepted payment of $25,000 as settlement of a client’s personal injury claims, deposited those funds in his attorney trust account in January 2003, failed to promptly disburse those funds to his client, withdrew those funds for his own use, closed his practice and moved out of the country. 

Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, faces an uphill task to win the Speakership election at the second time of asking (Punch) Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, faces an uphill task to win the Speakership election at the second time of asking (Punch)

“Although Gbaja ultimately paid the $25,000 to his client in 2006, he admits his conduct violated Rule HS (1) and that as a result, he is subject to disbarment. In mitigation of his actions, Gbaja asserts that he has cooperated fully with disciplinary authorities, repaid his client, and is extremely remorseful for the consequences of his conduct. Under these circumstances, we conclude that a 36-month suspension is an appropriate sanction. Accordingly, Gbaja hereby is suspended for a period of 36 months. He is reminded of his duties under Bar Rule 4-219(c).”

Lawsuits are also being filed in Nigeria to stop Gbajabiamila

As the judgment above states, Gbajabiamila reportedly refunded the $25,000 to the client in 2006 and pleaded for forgiveness, three years after he was elected into the House of Representatives. 

With the national assembly set to elect its principal and presiding officers next week, a suit has been filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking to declare Gbajabiamila "unfit and improper" to have been elected into the House of Representatives in 2003.

In the suit, the plaintiff, Mr. Philip Undie is asking Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja to “remove Gbajabiamila from the House of Representatives over his alleged conviction in the US for fraud-related offences”.

Gbajabiamila’s parleys colleagues ahead of a crucial vote  [Twitter/@@femigbaja] Gbajabiamila’s parleys colleagues ahead of a crucial vote [Twitter/@@femigbaja]

The Action People’s Party (APP) has also asked the Federal High Court to disqualify Gbajabiamila from the Speakership race on the grounds that he was convicted in the US for $25,000 fraud. 

In summary, Gbajabiamila has been accused of perjury, corruption and fraud.

Gbajabiamila campaign organisation responds

Pulse understands that there is currently plenty of panic in Gbajabiamila's camp over the allegations.

Pulse has repeatedly tried to get Gbajabiamila to personally respond to the allegations without success, since the turn of the year. 

Recent calls to his mobile from Pulse returned a “number switched off” recorded message from the operator. 

However, the Gbajabiamila campaign organisation has denied reports that Gbajabiamila was once convicted in Georgia, US. 

During a press briefing held on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, head of the Gbajabiamila campaign organisation, Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin, described the allegations as “outright lies”. 

“Femi Gbajabiamila has never been convicted for any crime in the US, Nigeria or anywhere,” Jibrin said.

Abdulmumin Jibrin heads the Gbajabiamila campaign organisation, says he's innocent (Guardian) Abdulmumin Jibrin heads the Gbajabiamila campaign organisation, says he's innocent (Guardian)

“He has never been accused of corruption and has no corruption case. He never committed perjury in Nigeria or any country of the world.

“He has provided clarifications and set records straight. The allegations have been tested and struck out in court. It has been stated that he is a full member of the Bar of Georgia," he added.

During the briefing, Jibrin also held aloft a letter confirming Gbajabiamila’s membership of the Bar of Georgia. He also tendered a copy of the judgement of the Nigerian court striking out the case.

“We further wish to state that Femi has not been served any court summons or notified by the clerk of the national assembly. The judiciary must not allow itself to be mixed in this campaign of calumny,” Jibrin restated. 

Gbajabiamila would require majority of the votes to be elected Speaker of a 360-member Federal House of Representatives. 

According to Jibrin, 60 Reps have already pledged to vote for Gbajabiamila on Election Day. 

“Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Ahmed Wase will be on the floor of the house to be elected speaker and deputy speaker respectively.

“We wish to reiterate that Hon. Femi will run an all-inclusive house. So far, we have secured the endorsement of parts of the PDP caucus and other opposition parties consisting of about 60 members.

Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin describes allegations of corruption against Gbajabiamila as "outright lies" (ChannelsTV) Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin describes allegations of corruption against Gbajabiamila as "outright lies" (ChannelsTV)

“Hon. Femi has had a distinguished career both in the parliament and beyond. He is a loyal Nigerian and party man. He is honest, hardworking, team player and humble.

“He has worked tirelessly to support his friends but some of them including me let him down in 2015. I have since repented and I am also calling on all others to repent as well,” Jibrin added.

Pulse understands that other contestants for the Speakership position have been emboldened and encouraged to run, as Gbajabiamila’s reputation continues to take a pummeling in the final weeks of the campaign. 

Gbajabiamila who represents Surulere 1, Lagos, in the Green Chamber, was the APC's handpicked candidate for the position of Speaker in 2015. The party and the candidate were however outwitted by the opposition PDP who settled for Hon. Yakubu Dogara instead.

Dogara formally defected to the PDP from the governing APC just weeks before the 2019 general elections.

The 8th House of Reps is currently holding its valedictory session.