NIGERIA: FAROUK LAWAN, IS IT BUSINESS AS USUAL?

By Akeremale Temitope and Rosanwo Babatunde

The last has not been heard of the aftermath of the #occupyNigeria protests which created a paradigm shift in the Nigerian polity. It is no longer news that Nigerians hit the street January 2012 to demand from the government, accountability and transparency in the way the finances of the nation was being handled. Little did the government know that Nigerians would fight back after it announced the pump price increase on January 1, even when Nigerians hit the streets; it was expected to last for 2 days but went  well beyond 2 days and for the first time in recent years; Nigerians were united again, asking for good governance and dividends of democracy.

The lower chamber of the national assembly set up an ad hoc committee headed by Hon. Farouk Lawan, for weeks we were treated to live mini-series of how every tom, dick and harry become an oil importer in the last 3 years. The revelations were mind bugging thus our anticipation had no limits, the final reports of the ad hoc committee was laid before the House of Representatives and several recommendations were passed. The 205-page report uncovered a long list of alleged wrongdoings involving oil marketers, DPR and NNPC. A total of 15 fuel marketers/importers collected more than $300m over two years ago without importing any fuel, while more than 100 others could not account for their allocations. While the report was made public, it was expected that the EFCC supported by the Presidency would swing into action, review the report and commence prosecution of individuals and companies while doing their best to recover the looted common wealth of the Nigerian people; but this was not the case.

Weeks after, several advocacy groups and Nigerians have called for further actions on the report of the ad hoc committee which was already adopted by the House of Representatives. Over the weekend the news filtered in from the social media and notable pro-government sources, claiming that Farouk Lawan the chairman of the ad hoc committee on fuel subsidy was compromised. The allegations centred on him receiving the sum of $500,000 cash from Femi Otedola who had recorded the transaction with his pen camera, a further $100,000 was also reported to have been given to one Boniface Emnalor. The duo of Hon Farouk Lawan and Boniface then handed the said sums to Hon Jagban Adams Jagban who is the House committee chairman overseeing the activities of the nation’s anti-graft police. This links have the details:

http://ireports-ng.com/2012/06/09/fuel-subsidy-probe-femi-otedola-farouk-lawan-adams-jagaban-enmeshed-in-3million-bribery-scandal/

http://www.naijapundit.com/news/subsidy-probe-farouk-lawan-caught-on-camera-receiving-600k-bribe-vanguard-newspaper

Thisday Newspaper claims Femi Otedola had confirmed the bribe to the lawmakers http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/fuel-subsidy-probe-otedola-confirms-bribe-to-lawmakers/117757/#.T9WdFEldTB0.facebook

Let’s play out the scenarios

Assuming Farouk Lawan did collect the said amount of money from Femi Otedola, one wonders why the 3 honourables in the reports have kept quiet over such? What did they think they were doing? Did they receive any legal counsel?  Continuing with our assumption we may also want to ask, what was their motive? To use the alleged amount received as evidence against Femi Otedola or keep the money after the whole subsidy report was over, after all Femi Otedola’s Zenon were indicted in the final report of the probe so the bribe did not influence the work of the committee? Why would Femi Otedola offer the committee chair $500,000 cash, what was he seeking to protect?  Spinning the story around would be that Femi Otedola was working with the authorities to set the chairman up?  Were this to be the case, why did the authorities wait for more than a month after the alleged incident to bring this to the public domain and are we getting such information from the appropriate channels? Why was Farouk Lawan not arrested if this was part of a police operation, instead of this Mafia Mob type leak? Could Femi Otedola have taken time to perfect this out with the authorities in order to make it seem like a special operation? Is this a typical sting operation like we see in the Hollywood movies? Who goes around with $500,000 cash?

If indeed Femi Otedola has a video recording of this transaction as claimed by the various unconfirmed sources in circulation, where does his action place him in the eyes of the law?  Would Femi Otedola be considered a whistle-blower here or one with the intention of blackmailing the same men he offered bribes to doctor the report of the committee in case they refused to perform as agreed or anticipated? These amongst many others are a series of questions to be answered and until the alleged or fictional video of this transaction arrives in the public domain, it is believed such a transaction never took place and should the said “video evidence” be produced, Femi Otedola has a lot of questions to answer.

Since the allegations levelled against honourable Farouk touch upon corruption, the most logical places in which we should seek answers which will apply to the facts as they come to light are the various statutes that deal with corruption in Nigeria. Chief among these will be the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000. 2000 Act No 5 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria known to many by the mane of the accompanying Agency created by the same statute as the ICPC Act.

Provisions of the ICPC Act make it expressly clear that any person who offers to any public official or a public official who solicits counsels or accepts any gratification as an inducement or reward for:

Performing or abstaining from performing or aiding in procuring, expediting, delaying, hindering or preventing the performance of any official act;

Showing or forbearing to show any favour or disfavour in his capacity as such officer shall notwithstanding that the officer did not have the power, right or opportunity so to do, or that the inducement or reward was not in relation to the affairs of the public body, be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for (5) years without the option of fine

The act goes further to impose a duty upon any individual (be it a public officer or a private individual) to report incidents where bribes have been offered to the ICPC and or the police. Failure on the part of anyone to report any such incident bearing any reasonable excuse is stipulated to be punishable by imprisonment and or a fine.

It is clear from the above highlighted and paraphrased sections of the ICPC Act that the Act intends to punish the givers and takers of bribe irrespective of their ability or unwillingness to carry out or sail through with the objective of the inducement. Here lies where honourable Farouk might find a huge hurdle before him should it emerge that there is indeed evidence that he received the sum of $600,000 from Femi Otedola, the Chairman of Zenon Oil, to get favourable treatment or hide facts from the House Committee on Fuel Subsidy.

May we ask why? The answer lies in the fact that provisions of the ICPC Act are so broad that the ability or inability of a public official to achieve the objective of the giver of the bribe will turn out to be irrelevant for the purposes of finding participants culpable according to the provisions stated above. This will in essence shoot down any argument on the part of the Farouk Camp that Zenon Oil was after all indicted by the report of the Committee on fuel Subsidy probe.

The argument may also be made that Either of the Parties Acted as Agent Provocateur ( now not the lingerie line) that is, a person being either a member of the police or other law enforcement  officers or their Agents who acts for the purpose of entrapping or getting evidence against offenders. The preceding definition however throws in another snag in that all parties in the drama will have to prove that they put themselves in such a compromising position in other to help the Police or other law enforcement authorities in other words they acted as agents for the law enforcement authority which will lead any right thinking observer or commentator to ask for evidence showing that the said sting was authorised by the law enforcement agencies.

Where the above is not the case, there seems to remain a window of escape for the Honourable Farouk and co. This can be found in Section 26 of the ICPC Act which clearly imposes a duty upon any individual (be it a public officer or a private individual) to report incidents where bribes have been offered to him or her to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission and or the police. Failure on the part of anyone to report any such incident bearing any reasonable excuse is stipulated to be punishable by imprisonment and or a fine or both. Should it be revealed that Femi Otedola reported the soliciting of a bribe to the appropriate authorities or vice versa then anyone of the parties who has been found in to have complied with the provisions of the law will definitely be arriving home and dry and will be vindicated not only in the Law Courts but in the Court of public opinion.

Ribadu and Farouk

We may be able to better appreciate the type of caution and extra care required of anyone who seeks to hold his or herself out as fighting the endemic corruption that has plagued our dear nation by examining the widely circulated and well-known incident of attempted bribery from which Mallam Nuhu Ribadu came out unscathed and without the ever so magnetic faeces of “you are also one of us” clinging to him.

We may want to spot the difference between the previous incident involving Nuhu and the current allegations staring Farouk in the face.

By Nuhu Ribadus account

James Ononefe Ibori the now convicted Ex-Governor of delta state handed him the sum of Fifteen million dollars in cash to stop the heap of investigations and pending charges against him by the EFCC.

We need not repeat every detail of what transpired between Nuhu and James Ibori, neither should we bore you with the colour of the car he drove in, the food on the menu etc. In case you have never read or watched Ribadus account of what transpired you may wish to view http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/forum/main-square/36712-how-ibori-tried-bribe-me-ribadu.html  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8322992.stm  to familiarise yourself with Ribadu’s account of events . However for the fact that the rumours in circulation appear to be similar to Ibori’s attempt at bribing a public official and influencing the outcome of an investigation we will examine the crucial and most important similarities and why the participants in this case may not be able to take advantage of Ribadus Anti Corrupt Nigerian Allegation defence system case. We will point out the various steps taken by Ribadu which Farouk may have not taken and may dent our dear friend’s credibility.

The cost of admitting to attempted bribery and thus blackmailing the Chairman of the House Committee of the fuel subsidy probe seems negligible and more manageable for a cabal that has the government in its pockets hence the adoption of the provisions of the Anti-graft Law as a tool to drag Farouk into the same boat as parties that have been found to be deeply involved in the commission of Financial Crimes against the Nigerian public.

This is because knowing full well that the giver of a bribe under the ICPC act is as guilty as he who solicits for same; the cabal has shown that they prefer to run afoul of the system which they control while in the process discrediting independent forces hell-bent on exposing the rot in The Nigerian Petroleum Industry. Their reason is not farfetched as the only reason why the fuel subsidy scam remains in the public domain has been the outrage of the ordinary members of the Nigerian Public and discrediting the Chairman of the Panel report is the only rout to taking the wind out of the sail of the advocates for transparency and accountability.

The circulation of rumours and attempts at blackmailing the members of the subsidy panel report can either galvanise civil society and every other interested party in the progress of our dear Nation to push for a total and complete implementation of the Panel report or achieve the objectives of the indicted parties who shamelessly bear their fangs at the moment.

We can either allow them drag the Panel of the report into the rotten system and spit them out as James Ibori succeeded in spitting out Ribadu and everything went on as business as usual or on the other we stand our ground telling the not so smart cabal that we have seen this script/movie before and will not be fooled again

Update

Farouk Lawan has denied the allegations; he claims the stories making rounds about such a transaction never took place. http://omojuwa.com/2012/fuelsubsidyprobe-hon-faroul-lawan-responds-to-bribery-allegations/

In Nigeria when you fight corruption, it fights back; not in 100 folds but 1 million folds. The fuel subsidy probe has generated a lot of debate over how state funds were looted in the last 3 years. The onus is on Nigerians to see this to a logical conclusion; it is very obvious that the interested parties and looters indicted in this probe will stop at nothing to distract the nation. If Farouk Lawan has a case to answer, the appropriate legal instruments must be employed to prosecute him as no man is above the law. The report of the committee has been passed by the house with very clear recommendations, it is expected that the EFCC must have commenced investigations with a view of bringing all culpable actors to book.

 

N:B On April 24 during the debate of the House of Representatives on the fuel subsidy report, Farouk Lawan requested the House to approve the acquittal of two oil marketers listed alongside 13 others, Synopsis Enterprises Ltd and Zenon Petroleum & Gas limited were cleared by the house. Could that be the pointer to the Farouk Lawan complicity?

 

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