June 21, 2012 – Who’ll Cleanse Nigeria’s House of Dregs
The House of Representatives’ Integrity Group’anchorman fell flat on the proverbial banana peel, cautiously veiled with a juicy $3m bribe offered by an oil magnate. Just as many Nigerians were beginning to heave a sigh of relief, that peradventure with the inauguration of the 7th National Assembly in June 2011, that those scandalous episodes which particularly characterized the erstwhile leaderships of the Lower House were over for good.
But it is not yet the glorious day in the current dispensation, at least against the backdrop of all manner of budget-padding and bribe-for-clearance shenanigans. The current parliament actually needs to re-invent itself, if it is to regain the fast-fading confidence many Nigerians have had in the members following their inauguration last year.
Regrettably, embarrassing financial scandals have continued to dog the legislative sessions of the House, which several people now have contemptuously described as the ‘House of Dregs’. It will be recalled that the tenures of the trio of Alhaji Salisu Ibrahim, Mrs. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh and Mr. Dimeji Bankole, ended in controversial circumstances.
Incidentally, Farouk Muhammad Lawan, a politician and four-term (since 1999) member of the House of Representatives from Kano State is in the news for the wrong reasons in recent times.
This is in connection with the purported $3million bribe-for-clearance disgraceful affair, for which he carelessly tore his hypothetical integrity garb. Before his recent suspension over the bribery scandal, Lawan was the Chairman, House Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management, which probed for months, the alleged gross misappropriation of the subsidy fund to the tune of N1.070trillion.
Nevertheless, conscious of the fact that his group of companies might be indicted by the investigating House Committee in the end, Mr. Femi Otedola, Chairman of Zenon Oil Plc, expressly dangled whopping US$3million before Lawan. Sadly, the former ‘Integrity Group’ Coordinator in the House of Representatives, an apparently experienced lawmaker, who ought to be on the alert for any machinations at all simply caved in. Lawan reportedly collected bribes from Otedola in instalments. The third instalment was said to have been collected from the Zenon Oil boss at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, by Lawan’s proxy.
Instead of acknowledging the fact that in all sincerity he collected and pocketed the hard currency as a bribe in order to strike out Otedola’s companies from the list of fuel subsidy fraudsters, Lawan was economical with the truth. He rather, feebly acknowledged at the plenary of the House when the subsidy report was tabled for adoption that truly, “there were some errors in the compilation of the subsidy scam report”: that Otedola’s companies were not supposed to be there. And the House leadership concurred to his deceptive alibi by striking out Zenon Oil from the list.
Curiously, were those belated observations truly factual “errors” or an attempt to doctor the report after a painstaking compilation and eventual publication? Many have sneeringly asked: Why did Lawan make a U-turn from his noted upright standpoint on his issues of national importance since 1999? Could his latest action have been taken for want of more money or sheer greed? Leadership irresponsibility or outright failure? Or better still, a waning strength of character as a fallible human being, after all? If he had been arrested by security operatives secretly detailed to keep watch over him when collecting the first two installments of the bribe from Otedola, would he still have denied that he received bribe-for-clearance right in Otedola’s house?
•Gbenga Kayode, a media professional, Wordkraft Communications Limited, Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]