BY OKEY NDIRIBE & EMMAN OVUAKPORIE
The aura of integrity and authority which Hon. Farouk Lawan used to radiate within the chambers of the House of Representatives evaporated on Friday when his colleagues within the Green Chamber removed him as Chairman of two important committees; the controversial Adhoc Committee on Monitoring of Subsidy Fund and the Education Committee.
The allegation of bribery levelled against him by oil marketer Femi Otedola was also referred to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges for further investigation.
It all began on April 18 , 2012 – the day members of the House received the report of Lawan led Adhoc Committee.
Nigerians hailed the report and expected so much that the committee’s Chairman became very popular. His colleagues respected him and looked up to him. His opinion was sought on vital issues.
But Friday was different for Lawan. Dressed in his traditional white agbada with a white cap to match, Speaker Tambuwal went straight to the day’s business when he asked Hon Bawa to read the only motion of the day. The atmosphere was highly charged. The usual banters the Speaker normally shared with members was missing. He said the usual prayer and went straight to the business of the day which was a motion on the “Allegation of $620,000.00 bribe against the Chairman Adhoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Monitoring Regime (Hon Farouk Lawan) and the Secretary (Mr Boniface Emenalo) standing in the name of Hon Ishiaka Mohammed Bawa the Chief Whip of the House.”
Bawa read the motion as follows: “That the House notes with serious concern the recent allegation of bribery in the sum of $620,000.00 leveled against the Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on fuel subsidy and the secretary by Chief Femi Otedola, an oil marketer.”
He stated that the House was conscious of the various media reports on the allegation and was conscious of the resolve of the Legislative Agenda of the 7th Assembly to maintain probity, accountability and transparency in the conduct of its business.
The House however resolved to remove Lawan and Emenalo as Chairman and Secretary of the Adhoc Committee respectively.
Members also decided to rescind the resolution of the House on Tuesday , April 24, 2012 on the items 5 and 6 of the Ad-Hoc Committee’s Report . This had to do with deleting the names of Synopsis Enterprises Ltd and Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd from the list of companies indicted by the Committee. These companies should have been referred to the relevant anti-corruption agencies with a view to verifying what they used the foreign exchange they collected for.
Bawa’s motion was overwhelmingly endorsed by members.
Chairman of Rules and Business Committee of the House, Hon. Sam Tsokwa( (Taraba), reinforced this position and added that the Federal Government must implement the subsidy report. The same line was toed by Minority Whip, Hon. Samson Osagie (ACN Edo), who noted that, although the bribery allegation was in bad taste, it was wrong to use the action of one person to judge the entire House. He moved a motion for a vote of confidence to be passed on the leadership of the House. The motion attracted applause and was voted for by all the members when the Speaker asked for voice vote.
Earlier in his speech, Tambuwal had cautioned members against engaging in acts that are capable denting their reputation and that of the House.
According to him: “ The object of the session is to deliberate on the grave allegation of bribery brought against a member of this hallowed Chambers. Hon. Farouk Lawal, by Mr. Femi Otedola, an oil marketer, in connection with the work of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime empanelled by the House for that purpose.
”In accordance with our Legislative Agenda, we must continue to be, not only sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians but also proactive on all matters of urgent National importance. Therefore, while I apologize for the inconveniences caused to members by this sudden recall from the recess, I trust, we all appreciate that this is a call to important civic duty for our dear country”.
”Hon. Colleagues, when we elected to pursue the entrenchment of probity, accountability and transparency in the conduct of government business as a cardinal Legislative Agenda we advised ourselves never to expect that it will be an easy task.
Accordingly I have had cause to occasionally sound a note of warning and remind that our constitutional task is inescapably hazardous requiring total commitment, diligence, transparency; determination and sacrifice
”I wish at this point to make this pledge that the House of Representatives shall continue to act responsibly by ensuring that all investigations are instituted only when absolutely necessary. Furthermore, we shall insist on probity and fairness on the part of our members conducting such investigations; and we shall not hesitate to sanction anyone who in the course of these investigations overreaches himself or uses the process to intimidate anyone or engages in corruption.
The recent investigations into two Sectors, namely Oil Subsidy Regime and Capital Market were conducted in public; evidence and testimonies were freely given and taken and in the case of oil subsidy regime, monumental fraud was disclosed in the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee which has since been passed by the House and referred to the Executive for implementation by relevant agencies.
”While we consider it preposterous and hasty to dismiss the current bribery allegations, pending the outcome of ongoing investigations, including our in-house investigation just instituted, we reject in totality insinuations being orchestrated in some media circles to the effect that the allegations have eroded the integrity of the Resolutions of the House on the report and rendered same unworthy of implementation.
”Let me reiterate that the resolutions of the Huose over the fuel subsidy regime remain valid despite this recent controversy. We must as a country learn to separate institutions from individuals and we must admit that, in the present case, the alleged conduct of an individual can not negate the conclusions of the whole House. Let me also reaffirm here that we have not been compromised and we shall never compromise our stand against corruption.
The credibility of that report therefore remains inviolable and we stand by it”. He urged the executive to carry out its promises of implementing the report on the House’s recommendation. Lawan had been House Committee Chairman on Education from the 6th Assembly.