Major opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria warned on Tuesday that bribery allegations involving chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management, Mr. Farouk Lawan, must not impede the implementation of the committee’s probe report.
The Nigeria Labour Congress in Abuja also echoed the sentiment, calling on the corruption fighting body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, to implement the oil subsidy report “and avoid unnecessary diversions”.
In a statement in Lagos by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ACN indicated that it was suspicious at the timing of the bribery allegations.
Though Lawan vehemently denied it at first, chairman of Zenon Oil, came forward with allegations that he had paid $500,000 in bribes to the Committee Chairman and an additional $120,000 in bribes to the secretary of the Committee, Boniface Emenalo.
Otedola claimed he was working with security operatives as part of a sting operation. He said Lawan had demanded the a whopping $3 million in bribes from him to keep his firm off the list of fraudulent oil marketers in the final report.
He revealed that security agents had agreed to work with him to expose Lawan, even giving him marked bills and a camera spy pen with which to record the entire transaction.
Shortly after that report made it to the press, new details emerged claiming that Lawan took Otedola’s dollars to expose and was working with the Nigeria Police Force and some members of the House in doing so.
Video footage of the bribery incident has reportedly been viewed by many top government officials and there are concerns that bribery incident damages the credibility of the report.
But the ACN says there can be no doubts about the report, explaining that the committee “did a thorough job in exposing the massive mismanagement and the sleaze involved in the fuel subsidy issue”.
In the statement, the ACN said the allegation of bribery should not mean a free pass for those indicted in the report.
“While the bribery allegation must be thoroughly investigated and anyone found culpable dealt with according to the laws of the land, any attempt to cast aspersion on the report, to say it has been tainted by the bribery allegation, should be resisted by the House of Representatives.
“We are concerned that this case is eerily similar to what happened after the House’s probe into the $16bn reportedly spent on the power sector during the Obasanjo regime.
“Instead of implementing the report of the committee, the man who presided over the probe was slammed with corruption charges.
“Till today, that report was never implemented and Nigeria remains in darkness.”
A statement by the Acting President of the NLC, Mr. Kiri Mohammed, said the content of the report was a confirmation of the union’s earlier position.
He said, “The ongoing accusations and counter-accusations between Farouk Lawan, and the Chairman of Zenon Petroleum, Femi Otedola, over allegations of bribery involving the sum of $600,000, as serious as it is, should not be used to divert attention on the implementation of the report of the committee.”