- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
Farouk/Otedola Saga: From The Serious To The Ludicrous
The battle to unravel all the mysteries concerning the $620,000 bribery saga in the House of Representatives could be the beginning of another long-drawn battle in the nation’s political arena, writes KUNLE ODEREMI.
It is no longer a tale by moonlight: the bribery furore between oil magnate, Mr. Femi Otedola and the suspended Chairman of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee, which investigated the N1 trillion fuel subsidy saga, Honourable Farouk Lawan. The principals and their agents are feeding the public with a great dose of theatrics, which underscore the fate of several probes and their damning reports on ministries, agencies and departments over the years.
The last time the vast majority of Nigerians were treated to a video show on prime time television was during the phantom coup under late General Sani Abacha when some prominent individuals, top military brass and civilians were roped in and meant for elimination by bullets before providence intervened to save their lives.
History seems to be repeating itself with the ongoing choreography by the key figures in the $620,000 bribery scandal. The scam had come to public domain in the midst of public exasperation on the fate of the report of the ad hoc committee that indicted a number of stakeholders in the messy oil industry. Following the ongoing melodrama, the spokesman for the non-governmental organisation, Mr. Yinka Odumakin has warned Nigerians to be wary of what he perceived as a possible grand plot to divert public attention from the real issue on the ground, which is the report of the ad hoc committee that exposed the unbridled corruption surrounding the management of the N1 trillion subsidy. He said the Otedola/Farouk bribe row should be seen as serious, but should not subsume the mindless deprivation of the people by the oil cartel. It was his position that there were sufficient grounds for the law to take its course against those principal characters involved in the bribery saga, without jeopardising the implementation of the report of the committee.
His view tallies with the position of a radical legal practitioner, Mr. Festus Keyamo, who appeared to disagree with another activist lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN),Chief Mike Ozekhome on the content and actual display of the supposed audio conversation between Otedola and Farouk on the telly. Keyamo believed a prima facie case had been established against those linked with bribery scandal, therefore the law enforcement agencies should get cracking. He claimed that from the various reports, press releases and statements made by all the actors involved in the saga, certain undisputable facts had emerged, one of which, according to him, is that there was definite communication between Farouk and Otedola (both by telephone and face-to-face) in respect of the offer and acceptance of bribe money. Coupled with this was his claim that the question of who initiated a relationship was “completely irrelevant when determining the guilt or otherwise of the giver and taker of bribe money.” By his reckoning, Farouk was at the moment only involved in a circus show and trying to prolong the controversy over the alleged bribe.
The call for an expeditious action against those perceived as being at the centre of the scam was also made by a body called, Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL). It said the Police needed no further evidence to effect the arrest of Farouk and Otedola. Relying on the information contained in the aired tapes on the scandal, PILL President, Abdul Mahmud, alleged that three things: background of the bribe-giving and bribe-taking, a criminal relationship and an intent to compromise the outcome of the Ad hoc Committee, were all established. He asked the Police to discharge its legal and statutory duty, which is to “hurl the bribe-giver and taker before our Court of Justice and spare Nigerians the pains of being treated to the circuses and puerile defences of lawyers who are earning their fees from the Faroukgate scandal.”
However, going by the critique of Ozekhome on the audio show, the nation could be in for another windy, tortuous and hilarious legal tangle in the days ahead. The former president of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) dissected the contents and concluded that they were grossly untenable, based on a number of factors. His comments, which negated the position of the other legal luminaries that spoke on the matter, some observers said, could be an indication of a plethora of litigations as the possibility of engaging forensic experts to assist in some fresh angles raised in the tape has not been ruled. This does not preclude a rash of legal technicalities that had often slowed down or frustrated the conclusion of such critical, matters such as the fuel subsidy saga.
Apart from being concerned that the tape was not backed with visual, as it was “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” Ozekhome who is the counsel for Farouk, claimed the “motives behind the audio are invidious, insidious and that the entire audio playback on Monday and Tuesday is of dubious and questionable pedigree.” He also queried the choice of television, rather than playing the tape for radio listening. All these and many other posers raised by Ozekhome are possible indicators of the likely phases the Farouk/Otedala saga could assume in the coming weeks and possibly months.
Nigerians may have seen only Act One Scene Two of what promises to be an adventure of the serious and the ludicrous in the bribery saga.Share