Nearly 50 Nigerian parliament members have angrily left the legislature’s lower house after a motion to probe a huge cash arms deal worth $9.3 million with South Africa was blocked.
The Tuesday development came after South African police announced last week that its customs authorities seized cash funds in 100 dollar bills in three suitcases, which arrived on a private jet from Nigeria at Johannesburg’s Lanseria airport earlier in the month.
South African authorities then seized the cash-filled luggage after two Nigerians and an Israeli carrying them did not declare the money, according to local press reports.
The three individuals with the funds, however, were not charged with any wrongdoing by the authorities.
No explanation has been released so far about the Israeli connection to the cash weapons deal, apparently between the Nigerian government and South Africa.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers that stormed out of the parliament chamber were reportedly mostly from opposition parties, accusing the ruling People’s Democratic Party of blocking the motion to probe the arms deal through Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihiodioha.
Ihiodioha has reportedly reasoned that since the weapons deal was an issue of national security, it could not be broached.
This is while the upper chamber of the Nigerian legislature has also summoned the country’s security chiefs over the suspicious arms deal.
However, it is not yet clear whether the security chiefs did in fact appear on Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Defense, which issued its summons last week.
Correspondents say the revelations have shocked many Nigerians and there have been calls for an inquiry.
Meanwhile, PRNigeria, which does communication consultancy for the Nigerian military and enjoys strong links with the country’s security agencies, cited a source as claiming that the money was for a legitimate government transaction to purchase weapons.
Related story: $9.3 million in cash seized in South Africa traced to Nigerian intelligence agency