The accusations and counter accusations from the two principal actors in the unfolding bribery drama have kept many Nigerians wondering about the kind of leaders and representatives they have. If Femi Otedola, a friend of Government and an associate of the President could admit offering a bribe and if Farouk Lawan, a trusted member of the legislature admitted that he took a bribe, it says a lot about the country.
Otedola made claims that Lawan demanded the bribe in order to remove his company from the list of those to be indicted in the oil subsidy scam that rocked the nation earlier in the year.
The billionaire businessman’s claim was that since he knew his company did not break any law, he called in law enforcement agents who advised him to play along in order to have evidence with which the lawmaker could be nailed at the appropriate time.
Otedola stated that Honourable Lawan collected $500,000 in cash while the secretary of the ad hoc committee that carried out the probe, Boniface Emenalo, collected $120,000 in two installments of $20,000 and $100,000 respectively.
Otedola also made it known that the money that was given to Lawan was got from the State Security Service (SSS).
Surprisingly, Lawan who had denied taking the bribe in an earlier statement recanted and disclosed that he actually collected money from the oil magnate. Lawan however said he accepted the money to expose the businessman. Lawan also claimed that he informed the police and members of the House of Reps about the issue.
Lawan also alleged that the Secretary of the Committee, Boniface Emenalo told him that Otedola offered him $ 100,000 whereas Otedola alleged that Emenalo collected $ 120,000 from him.
The tide however seems to have turned against the lawmaker as he remains the subject at the centre of the bribery saga. A fresh N 11 billion bribery allegation has also come up.
The Fresh N 11 Billion Allegation!
While the $ 620,000 allegation is still generating hues and cries, police authorities are already looking into another allegation of N 11 billion. Oil marketing companies were alleged to have paid some members of the ad hoc committee. Though the police are keeping sealed lips on the matter, it is already being said in hushed tones that some marketers had “settled” in order to be absolved of blames by the committee.
It came as a surprise to many that a former President whose 8 years in office were fraught with various allegations of monumental corruption could have the effrontery to describe the House of Reps as a collection of armed robbers. Alas, Farouk Lawan seems to have proved that the former President has a point.
Unfortunately, the point has been scored in favour of the oil cabal. Thanks to the allegation of fraud, the report of the fuel subsidy probe might never see the light of the day and even if it does, it will be dismissed as warped, since the Chairman of the committee that wrote it has been smeared.
Honourable Farouk Lawan’s reputation as one of the most credible members of the House has obviously suffered a big stain. On the long run, the stain may affect his 2015 Governorship ambition which has been a topic for discussion in his home state before now.
The biggest losers however are the ordinary Nigerians who fought against the removal of fuel subsidy, some losing sweat and blood in the process.
N 3.3 trillion of the country’s resources, which could have been channelled into other things to better the country’s lot might end up being unaccounted for.
Like most investigations in the past, this too may end nowhere, thus leaving Nigerians as the victims.
The Federal House of Reps too features prominently among the losers. No matter what step the House takes, it has lost some credibility. Though the leadership has made it clear that the embattled Committee Chairman is on his own, he sure belongs to a political party and the reputation of his party too will be spoken about in the scandal.
A Plot Within A Plot?
There is a likelihood that some members of the House will rise to protect Hon Lawan as well as the image of the party he represents. The cover up starts from there.
Findings have also revealed that long before now, members of the “oil cabal” had been looking for ways of wriggling out of the fuel subsidy scandal. There have also been several indications that the report of the probe will have very little consequence, if it has any on those indicted.
A similar scandal trailed the Ndudi Elumelu panel that probed the billions invested in Nigeria’s power sector. Before the panel could submit its report, it was alleged that members had been compromised. The EFCC waded in and questioned a number of people.
Though the report itself indicted highly placed individuals, including former President Obasanjo, the reports ended up being nullified by a report review committee. Some of those indicted are still holding elective offices.
Ironically, while Nigerians are crying for prosecution of corrupt officials, it is evident that many have forgotten that the EFCC Act gives room for plea bargaining, thus, making it easy for offenders to get away with light punishment.