$3m Scandal: Reps dump Lawan as chairman of House Committees

Emeka Mamah, Okey Ndiribe,
Luka Binniyat & Emman Ovuakporie

16 June 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS –  NiIGERIA’s House of Representatives Friday removed the embattled Chairman of its Adhoc Committee on Petroleum Subsidy Regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan and replaced him with John Eno, former Chairman of the Committee on appropriation even as it passed a vote of confidence on the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal and the leadership of the House and urged the Executive to match words with action in the implementation of its resolutions on fuel subsidy regime which exposed monumental fraud in the system.

The House also relisted Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd and Synopsis Enterprises Ltd. – which were earlier delisted by Lawan – among companies that were indicted for fraud in the disbursement of the subsidy funds.

Friday’s session of the House which was packed full with members began at 11am after the Speaker took his seat and said the opening prayers.

Immediately after Tambuwal completed his speech, Hon. Mohammed Bawa took the floor and read a motion paper which had earlier been circulated under Order 5, Rule 18 to contribute on the allegation of the $620,000 bribe scandal against Lawan.

Bawa’s motion mentioned the involvement of the Secretary of the Adhoc Committee Mr. Boniface Emenalo in the bribery scandal.

Bawa noted “With serious concern, the recent allegation of bribery involving the sum of $620,000 levelled against the Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on the Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime (Hon. Farouk Lawan) and the Secretary (Boniface Emenalo) by Chief Femi Otedola, an oil marketer,” with the following proposed resolutions:

“To remove forthwith Lawan as Chairman and Emenalo as Secretary of the Adhoc Committee; rescind the resolution of the House of Tuesday, April 24, 2012 on recommendations 29 which led to the delisting of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd and Synopsis Enterprises Ltd.”

“refer the bribery allegation to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges to thoroughly investigate and report back to the House within two weeks upon resumption from the current recess of the House; support and encourage the investigations already being undertaken by the relevant security anti-graft agencies;

“urge the President and all security and anti-graft agencies to proceed with the implementation of the House’s resolutions on the fuel subsidy regime investigation report already communicated to them and mandate all relevant standing committees with jurisdictions on the petroleum sector including the Committee on Legislative Compliance to monitor and ensure full implementation of the resolutions on the fuel subsidy regime report and report back to the House; suspension of Lawan as Chairman of House Committee on Education until investigation into the allegations of bribery leveled against him is completed.’’

All these resolutions were adopted by the House.

The motion for a vote of confidence on the leadership of the House was moved by Hon. Samson Osagie, representing Orhiomwhon Federal Constituency in Edo state during which he elaborated on the role of the legislature in a democracy. Osagie who went down memory lane, recalled the achievements of the House and was greeted with thunderous ovation by members.

Said he: “Members of the House of Representatives would come and go but the House would always remain.”
Referring to the scandal in which Lawan was involved, he said: “If a member of the House of Representatives had committed an offence, it is not the House that should be held responsible.

“The House had responded to the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government by holding an emergency session to deliberate on the issue which Nigerians had complained so much about. The House had set up an Adhoc Committee which carried out its assignment and submitted its report to this House. The House should refuse to be blackmailed. I move that a vote of confidence be passed on the leadership of the House.”

Earlier in his speech, Tambuwal had cited Order 5 (18)(2) of the Standing Rules of the House to indicate where he derived his powers to summon the emergency session.

He had intimated members that the object of the session was to deliberate on grave allegations of bribery brought against Lawan 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 to be proactive on all matters of urgent national importance. 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 reminder that our constitutional task is inescapably hazardous requiring total commitment, diligence, transparency; determination and sacrifice. The Constitution has given the parliament three broad duties which include law making, representation and oversight. It is interesting to note that of these three, it is that last function, which gives legislature the powers to conduct oversight, that has tended to cause conflict between the Legislature and the Executive and remains the most controversial.

“Yet. it would have been impossible to conduct the other two functions successfully if the Constitution had not given the parliament oversight powers: the single most potent weapon that makers of the constitution put in place to check abuse by those who execute its law. In full compliance with the constitutional prescription in section 62(1) and (2), the House has always ensured that all committees empanelled by it, be they Ad-Hoc or Standing, are given a clear mandate.

“I find it compelling to state for the umpteenth time that the constitutional power of investigation conferred on the Legislature is for the purpose of law reform and for the exposure of corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it. In the exercise of this function there shall be no sacred cows.

“I have emphasized the constitutionality of the oversight function of the legislature because there lingers among many public officials, the notion that in holding public or investigative hearings, the Legislature is over stepping its bounds and also neglecting its other functions. Nothing can be further from the truth. The records of our performance for the first legislative year which just ended on June 6, 2012 show that the performance in the area of legislation was equally impressive.

“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 the 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 House 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.

“May I, therefore, urge the Executive to match words with action in the implementation of these resolutions. As just resolved by motion, relevant Committees of the House must diligently monitor the implementation of the resolution by agencies under their supervisory jurisdiction and report back to the House within reasonable time.

“The scope of our resolve for transparency in the conduct of government business include all the arms of government; all public functionaries and all persons doing business with government or operating under Acts of the Legislature. As members of parliament we enjoy no immunity and we seek none, let us therefore remind ourselves constantly that we must live above board.

“We offer ourselves for public scrutiny at all times in our effort to build a better Nigeria. As humans where we err and our attention is called, we shall be willing to make amends in the overall national interest. I call upon all of us to remain firm, resolute and committed to the execution of our constitutional mandate whatever the hazards. We must never, repeat never, be cowed or intimidated.”

Northern CAN, ACF, SOKAPU want probe report implemented
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in the 19 Northern States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOKAPU, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, the Executive Director of Human Rights Monitor, HRM, Mr Festus Okoye and former National Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, have asked the Federal Government to implement the House of Representatives report on the fuel subsidy regime to restore the confidence of Nigerians in governance.

Northern CAN reacted to the controversies surrounding the alleged bribe scandal involving the former Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee of the House of Representatives on Fuel subsidy regime, Farouk Lawan, in an interview with Saturday Vanguard in Kaduna yesterday through its Public Relations Officer, PRO, Mr. Sunday Oibe, saying that the bribery allegation should not be an excuse by the Federal Government to kill the report of the Lawal Committee.

The ACF in its reaction through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, regretted what he described as plot by powerful oil magnets and politicians to rubbish the work of Lawan’s committee and to possibly remove the leadership of the House of Representatives.

HRM’s Executive Director, Mr Okoye in his reaction said, ‘’The House of Representatives is within its constitutional province in insisting that the report of the Ad-hoc Committee on Subsidy regime must be implemented. They also acted within their House Rules in suspending Farouk Lawan, pending his exoneration in the unfolding saga. “It is not correct to profile the entire House on account of the moral failings of few individuals. The government must act on the subsidy report if they want to be taken seriously on the fight against corruption.’’

Also, according to ACF, the $3million bribery scam involving some members of the committee must be treated separately to separate the chaff from the wheat just as SOKAPU’s National Secretary, Mr. Sunday Marshall insisted that the scandal involving Farouk Lawan should not in any way affect the integrity of his committee’s report.

Northern CAN
’’We do not want any organ of government to mess up the report of the committee based on the unfortunate allegations against the former Chairman of the Ad- hoc committee. Nigerians have a right to know what happens to the billions that were said to have gone missing in the name of subsidy on oil. Any attempt to use this bribery scandal as an excuse to rubish the oil subsidy report will not be accepted by us.

But, the greatest loser in this episode remains the National Assembly. Because from now onwards, no one would believe what it does or says.

How can a man leave his wife and children by 4am to go and collect bribe? He first denied it, then with annoying guts, later admitted that he collected the money, but kept it to later tender as exhibit.

When did Lawan become a bank to keep so much hard currency in his house?
We feel insulted. Almost every serous probe carried by the National Assembly, had always been tainted by corruption. That shows that we do not have a responsible National Assembly yet. CAN in the north is very sad about this, and we pray that our Almighty creator will rise a crop of God fearing leaders who will lead this country to benefit from the abundance that it is endowed with.

It’s a plot to kill the report and remove the leadership of Reps – ACF
The bribe scandal trailing the Hon Lawan Farouk probe Committee on fuel subsidy is very disturbing. I hope it was not designed at rubbishing the image of the Legislature; to kill the reports of the probe committee on fuel subsidy as well as to prove that the legislators are rogues and corrupt.

Have it in mind that it was Senator Bukola Saraki who first raised this concern in a motion in the Senate, upon which the House of Representatives built on to set up this committee. Saraki, on his own has been hounded by security agencies over a bank transaction that had been concluded and forgotten.

You would recall there had been this impression across the nation that the oil cartel was either too powerful for government to confront, or that some government functionaries were part of the cartel. As a result, rather than overcome the managerial imperfections which marred the management of the down stream sector of the petroleum industry, government chose the path of least resistance by removing the fuel subsidy.

You may also wish to consider the fact of history that Hon Lawan had been the helmsman of the Integrity Group that sought to bring semblance of credibility in the House of Representatives which resulted in shoving off a former Speaker, a favourite of a former President. Then came the recent bomb shell from former President Obasanjo that the nation’s legislators are rogues and corrupt.

So, when you add these incidences and they way the current leaders of the House of Representatives emerged against all odds, then it is hard not to suspect high power politics in play now.

In situations like this, one would say Hon Lawan and the leadership of the House are too intelligent not to be aware of the arsenals arranged against them not only by the oil cartel, but also those opposed to its leadership. They are toiling day and night to prove their allegations against legislators. One had expected them to be more careful than allow themselves to be smeared.

’’It would be painful to imagine that the whole saga was a charade put up to cast aspersions on the whole House as well as to bring the probe reports into disrepute for the purpose of change of the leadership. Political differences should not form the basis of bringing our democracy and its institutions into disrepute. That would not be good commentary on our leaders.

So, while not condoning bribery nor tolerating corrupt practices in the polity, I would suggest to the investigating authorities to be fair and just in their work with a view to separating politics from criminal acts in the interest of our democracy.

The two should be treated on their own merits – SOKAPU
The subsidy report should be taken on its merit, while the scandal involving Farouk Lawan should also be taken on its merit. SOKAPU smells a ploy to throw away this report, and we reject that move.

The report of the subsidy and the recommendations must be adhered to by Executive, while Lawan and Otedola should be investigated and dealt with appropriately.

It is very unfortunate that the investigation of such huge theft of the commonwealth has thrown up the true nature of our lawmakers. A man pursuing a thief should not turn out to be a more disgraceful kind of thief.

That is very sad. But our position is that the two scandals must be treated separately, not one rubbishing the other.

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