12th June, 2012
If there is any opportunity President Goodluck Jonathan needs to assure Nigerians and the international community that he is very serious about his war against corruption in the country, the latest scandal involving Farouk Lawan, Chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy probe is one he can latch on to convince doubting Thomases.
Lawan had allegedly collected $500,000 from Zenon Oil & Gas boss, Femi Otedola to remove Zenon’s name from the list of oil companies involved in the subsidy scandal.
This latest scandal involving legislators collecting bribes while performing their oversight functions is not the first. In fact, it is the third bribery scandal to hit those claiming to represent us at the National Assembly this year alone.
The first came early in the year when the nation was inundated with a bribery scandal involving members of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market which was investigating the near collapse of the Nigerian capital market. We were treated to a show of shame on live television when the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Ms. Arunma Oteh openly accused the Chairman of the committee, Herman Hembe of demanding N39 million bribe from the NSE in order to have a ‘smooth trial.’ She also accused Hembe of collecting N5 million from SEC for a journey which he did not make and failed to return the money.
These accusations were made by Oteh on the second day of the hearing after Hembe and members of his committee had accused her of lacking the qualification to head SEC.
Just like the popular saying that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, Oteh came out, firing from all cylinders and accused Hembe of demeaning her because she refused to pay him and members of his committee the money demanded from her. Even though Hembe denied this initially, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which investigated the allegation, disagreed with him by arraigning him in court for graft.
The second bribery scandal involving our legislators this year has to do with members of the Senate investigating corruption in the administration of the police pension fund. The chairman of the government-appointed investigative panel probing allegations of mismanagement of the fund accused the senators of demanding bribe from the panel, an allegation the senators denied. Investigation is still ongoing and it is our hope that truth will prevail in this probe.
It is in the light of these that we are calling on President Jonathan not to allow the latest opportunity provided by revelations that Lawan collected $500,000 from Otedola to exonerate his companies of any misdeed in its petroleum marketing operations.
We feel it is time for the president to demonstrate his resolve to tackle the pervasive corruption in the land headlong. Considering the furore generated by the findings of Farouk’s committee on illegal oil subsidy collection by some unscrupulous petroleum marketing companies who collected trillions of naira in subsidy without even supplying the products, President Jonathan should seize the opportunity to unravel what actually happened.
We expect the president to direct the EFCC to wade in and identify all the culprits involved in the $500,000 bribery scandal. Nobody should be spared. The scandal has once again brought shame to the legislators.
Nigerians are fed up with the levity with which the present administration is treating issues relating to corruption. It is time for a decisive action to be taken by President Jonathan.