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Monday, June 25, 2012

FAROUK LAWAN/OTEDOLA: QUESTIONS AND MORE QUESTIONS





When Femi Otedola reportedly broke the news that Farouk Lawan, the very same Farouk Lawan that a majority of the people almost deified in the wake of the release of the subsidy probe, demanded and collected bribe of $620,000 from him to keep Zenon’s name out of the report, I was one of the, I’m sure, many people who felt Farouk Lawan was only being framed. I believed after all the years he has spent at the House of Representatives without any (obvious) stain on his name, he must be one of the clean ones. I believed it when he said the image of him in the video being circulated was a caricature. I believed him. I so desperately wanted the story to be untrue, how can Farouk Lawan be the same as the rest of them?

Alas, the day after he denied receiving any money, he recanted, but said he wanted to use the money to expose Otedola and that he gave the money to one Jagaba Adams, the chairman of the House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes. He also said that he wrote a letter to police to report the bribe.

Otedola on his own part, I believe, very much in an attempt to whitewash his image claimed that there was no reason for Zenon to have been in the report since it was never a recipient of the oil subsidy as a diesel marketer, and that the dollar bills given to Farouk Lawan were marked and provided by the State Security operatives in a “sting” operation.

On the side of Farouk Lawan, things look really bad. It will be indeed very difficult to continue to believe that Mr “Integrity” Farouk Lawan himself still has any integrity left. First, Lawan was said to have made about three nocturnal visits to Otedola to collect the bribe money. Channels TV made Farouk look even worse when they replayed the session of the House in which Farouk sought to amend clauses 5 & 6 of the report to remove the names of Zenon and Synopsis. Things moved even from bad to the ridiculous when it was reported in the newspapers that a source who watched the video recordings of Lawan receiving the money said when his pockets were filled with the money, Lawan had opened his cap and stuffed the remaining wads therein!

Now, a number of questions beg to be answered in the whole sordid episode, from the limit of the information I have and my understanding of same, the questions are:

 If it was Otedola that offered the bribe to Farouk Lawan to not include Zenon’s name in the probe report, why was it that it was Lawan that went to Otedola’s house to collect the bribe money? And not once or even twice, but as reported, three whole times? There is a proverb that says that it is the man with thorn in his foot that limps to meet the man with pin for help. Since it was Otedola that was supposedly looking for a favour, why wasn’t he the one going to meet Lawan?

 If Lawan collected the money in order to expose Otedola as he claimed, why did he not officially report the matter of the bribe after the report was laid at, and adopted by the House of Representatives?

 Did Lawan, as he claimed, write a letter to the police to inform them of the offer of bribe? Why has the Ahmadu Ali he mentioned not been quizzed to find out what he knows about the matter?

 Did Lawan report the bribe to the members of the House or at least the Ethics committee as claimed? If he did, at what point did he report it to them? Was it after the bubble had burst or at the time the bribe was offered?

 How many members of the fuel subsidy probe committee which Lawan chaired were aware of the offer/acceptance of the bribe? What are the members of the committee saying about the bribe affair? Have they been thoroughly quizzed?

 If as Lawan claimed, he only collected the bribe with the intention of exposing Otedola, why did he move the motion to remove Zenon’s name from the report?

 What role, if any, did the Committee member that seconded Lawan’s motion play in the whole bribe affair? Did the other committee members have fore-knowledge of Lawan’s motion to apply through a motion to remove Zenon’s name from the report? If they did, on what basis did they agree that Zenon’s name be removed? Is it because they are privy to the bribe thing? Is it because Zenon really did not belong in the report as Otedola claimed? If Zenon’s name never should have been in the report, how did it get there?

 If Lawan did not intend to spend the bribe money, why did he keep quiet for so long to the point that it was Otedola that broke the news and not him?

 Knowing how close Otedola was to the former President Obasanjo and the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, was Farouk really that greedy and idiotic as to solicit for a bribe from of all persons, Femi Otedola?

 If the money is not with Adams Jagaba, where is it?

 Was Zenon, a company into diesel which has been deregulated, really supposed to have been part of the report? If so, why?

 On Otedola’s part, was the operation really a sting operation as claimed? If it was, why did the State security operatives allow the money to get out of their sight to the point where no one seems to know its whereabouts now?

 If it was a sting operation as claimed, why was Farouk not arrested immediately after collecting the bribe money by the security operatives? This is especially important because as reported, the money was collected in tranches of two $250,000 and a $100,000.

 I don’t remember having heard any official or unofficial statement from the SSS yet, but if they were really involved from the start, why has there been only silence from them so far on the whole saga?

 If it is indeed a sting operation, having let the money out of its sight, how did the SSS intend to identify the actual dollar bills given to Lawan if he has spent it?

 Why did it have to be Otedola and not the SSS that broke the story if indeed there was a sting operation?

 Why the long delay and silence even after the report had been laid and adopted with Lawan ‘performing’ by removing the name of Zenon and a certain Synopsis with no action taken by the security operatives until Otedola broke the story?

 Why have the tape recordings of the bribe taking not been made public?

 If Otedola doesn’t own Synopsis as he claims, who does? And how much did the owner have to pay to have the company’s name removed from the report? And how many other companies paid to have their names omitted?

So far, in my opinion as limited by the information I have, it appears that Lawan’s greed got the better of him and he really wanted to spend the money. Although, after an appearance at the House on Thursday the 21st of June, Farouk Lawan attempted to maintain his innocence by saying his silence so far on the matter is strategic and that he will with be vindicated having maintained a record of probity and accountability as a member of the House in the past 13 years.

My opinion on his appearance at the House is one I will rather keep to myself for now. Or maybe not completely. I do know I wouldn’t have been able to show my face among my colleagues so soon after my fall from the pedestal of “integrity” to the disgusting pit of corruption. Especially when I have not been able to successfully clear my name. But then, maybe he finds it so comfortable because that is the way they all are in the house. And well, of course, this is Nigeria, a country where the bigger a criminal you are, the more “honour” and awards you are given. At least now, going by the caliber of most of the other “Honourables”, it appears he is now more than ever before qualified to be called “Honourable” Farouk Lawan!

As for Otedola, though I do not know the true story, I think the whole sting operation thing was an afterthought. There are just too many questions screaming for answers. I fear though, that the answers might never be fully known because we are in Nigeria where the most confounding, unbelievable things happen on a regular basis without any sanction whatsoever attaching.