Denrele Animasaun from London
“A week is a long time in politics.”- Harold Wilson (British Politician and Prime Minister. 1916-1995)
Farouk Lawan, you know the House of Representatives Subsidy Probe panel Chairman (who since last week, has been stripped off his post). Please keep up, because it is going to get rather messy. Last week, the member of the House of Representatives was accused by Otedola that Lawan and the ad hoc committee’s secretary, Boniface Emenalo, collected $120,000 on Lawan’s behalf.
In all, allegedly $620,000 was paid to Lawan as part payment of $3 million Lawan requested. This extortion racket seems to have been initiated, well actually allegedly repeatedly solicited by Lawan in order that Otedola’s company, Zenon’s name would be kept out of the report.
For a good part of last week Lawan, vehemently denied that neither he nor any member of the committee collected money from any of the oil marketers. As the story gathered speed, he retracted his story and then told reporters in Abuja that he actually collected $500,000 from Otedola.
Then he confessed that he indeed collected the money and was holding on to it as evidence against Otedola. Such overwhelming evidence that any right thinking citizen would have reported to the police immediately.
Farouk told the police that when he discovered that the whole plot was a set up, he collected the money and handed it over to the Chairman, House Committee on Financial Crimes and assured the Special Task Force that he would return the money intact to the police. But the CP, Ali Amodu led STF is not buying the argument even as the House Committee Chairman on Financial Crimes would be invited to come with the marked money allegedly given to Farouk, to corroborate his statement.
The average Nigerian was not perturbed that by Thursday last week that Lawan had more or less admitted what he did. They did not bat an eyelid when he offered to hand in the money to the Police.
Lawan then, handed himself to the Police sans loot! Farouk Lawan has refused to release the cash to the STF. The detectives from the Special Task Force (STF) investigating the $3 million bribe scandal went on to conduct an hour search at Lawan’s Apo Legislators’ quarters in Abuja.
In the presence of his wife and children they searched but found a paltry $10,000 which , the police said, was part of the serialised money. For good measure, they seized his passport. Also, they searched the house of the Secretary of the Committee, Boniface Emenalo, who was alleged to have collected $120,000 as part of the bribe money.
But according to those in the know, the real reason why Farouk was delaying to honour the police invitation is because he can’t produce the “actual dollars” which he has already spent and if he produces another $620,000 other than the original one he would have betrayed many Nigerians who trusted him.
In the meantime ,the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, and three Commissioners of Police on Thursday questioned top ranking members of the House of Representatives and any other persons in the role of the extortion scam.
There was another story about the money. So where is the money? Show us the money! That substantial portion of the money has been stolen by person or persons unknown. But the so called top ranking people have promised that this scandal will not go to ground. I implore anyone not to attempt to hold their breaths because this story will run and run. Farouk Lawan plans to contest for Kano State governor in 2015 and many believes he needs a financial war chest for the contest.
Lawan in an attempt to turn the case against him approached members of the House’s Committee on Narcotics and Financial Crimes to appeal to them to tender the money he collected on-camera as evidence of an attempt to bribe him. But the committee members refused to be used, claiming that they could only have agreed if he had come to them before the scandal blew open.
Meanwhile, Lawan’s commitee members have expressed disappointment in the fact that he could collect such a huge sum without putting them in the picture. Are they embittered that they did not get their own share or that if they had they may have hushed the scandal? We are more inclined to guess that he may have stepped on a few toes and not share his ill proceeds.
This development makes the Fuel subsidy redundant. Ordinary Nigerians took to the streets to protest and to learn that the 1% are pilfering on a grand scale. They profess that the country is broke and they need the savings to provide and update facilities . We were told that the government was broke and the masses were told to make sacrifices. So all the riots and demonstrations did not achieve much as an increase of about 60% was still sustained.
A source said that the scope of investigation has been expanded as a result of new discoveries about other bribes, adding: “We are now talking about huge sums of money given to the probe committee and some of the oil marketers that were extorted have gone to the court to depose to affidavits to reveal everything”.
Home and abroad, Nigerians have become spectators in the macabre spectacle of crime against the majority. We should, as a people, do more individually and collectively to shift our mindset. Though I know it may sound rich from the comfort of my home and I do not have to deal with Nigerians in Nigeria.
The likes of Lawan, cannot lead or inspire a nation, yet they awarded themselves one of the highest salary anywhere in the world. Do they deserve their fat salaries? No! It should be Payment by result. If they cannot show us what they have done on our behalf to better our quality of life, why should they be given carte blanche to continue leading the country to ruin and damnation.
The mood in Nigeria is not a unhappy one, in particular regarding the extensive looting and pillaging of our resources by people entrusted to do better and should know better. They have failed us but most of all, they failed the younger generations, sending the wrong message that pilfering pays.
I told you, a week is a long time in politics. For Lawan, am sure, this saga will drag on and on.