Boxing enthusiasts will associate the above with the title of a fight contest, while our learned gentlemen may expect a legal confrontation; either way, Nigerians will laugh and cry at the same time at the unfolding drama between the oil magnate, Femi Otedola, on the one hand and the consummate legislator, Farouk Lawan, on the other.
The contest is all about integrity; but it is glaringly becoming difficult to pick an ultimate champion. The Farouk Lawan group altruistically positioned themselves to catch a thief, but somehow, the chief hunter appears to have been caught in the trap of the hunted.
While the public continues to yearn for all the truth to be unearthed, a number of issues still remain unclear from the revelations so far in the public domain. Why did Farouk Lawan initially deny that he collected money from Otedola and why did he denigrate the ‘video show’ as a contrived Nollywood film to discredit him because of his unshakeable stand in sustaining integrity in the investigations of the House Committee?
Why did Farouk’s statement later change to admit that the bribe was taken as a sting operation conducted in concert with the security agencies? If this was so, in keeping with the usual practice in sting operations, why didn’t the police immediately show up to apprehend Otedola with the cash evidence as soon as Farouk stepped out of Otedola’s compound?
Farouk urgently needs to clear the air, if he must prove his innocence. It is unusual for cash collected as evidence of a sting operation to remain in the hands of the collector rather than the Police for close to two months, without apparent further action to bring the villain to book.
Lawan and Otedola
If the Otedola/Farouk show was the theme of a Nollywood movie, the storyline may be considered unlikely, but the film would have been enjoyed all the same, because of the unexpected twists and turns.
Otedola, on his side, also claims to have acted in concert with the security agencies in a sting operation to expose Farouk’s demand for bribe. If this were so, Farouk should have been immediately picked up as soon as he stepped out of Otedola’s residence with the half a million marked currency notes in his bulging pockets!
Why did the security agencies fail to act until news of the scam filtered into the public domain? Many questions begging for answers, but the million-dollar question certainly must be, why did Farouk Lawan, in full public glare, advise the House to delist two companies (including Otedola’s ZENON?) from the list of fuel subsidy scammers after $500,000 changed hands?
Lawan’s excuse for removing the names of the two companies from the list was that both companies did not actually collect subsidies, but that they misapplied their forex allocations. Again, this raises a number of questions; in the first place, as far as I know, a customer’s purchase of forex is ordinarily tied to an existing invoice, letter of credit or bills for collection by the vending bank.
Companies, such as Otedola’s ZENON, would be expected to make payments for their diesel imports through appropriate money deposit banks rather than speculative purchasing from street side bureau de change.
In this event, Farouk will need to identify the banks, which provided the millions of dollars, which Otedola is alleged to have misapplied. The Central Bank of Nigeria, on their side, will need to investigate the forex transactions and practices of that bank. The forex regulatory agency would also have to explain why and how such serious infraction escaped its notice.
It is also difficult to understand why the other members of the House Committee on Fuel Subsidy accepted the excuse of forex misapplication for condoling the removal of two companies from its prima facie list of subsidy scammers.
Curiously, as evident from TV broadcasts of the hearing, there was no single voice of dissent from any quarter of the House against Farouk Lawan’s plea; could this be indicative that Mr. Lawan did not take the decision alone, or was their acquiescence out of respect for the perceived integrity of possibly the longest serving member of the House of Reps? Once again, many more questions are begging for answers!
On the other hand, if Otedola acted on his own, without the complicity of the security agents, many Nigerians would feel that his belated expose’ was an afterthought or a politically motivated scheme to discredit the subsidy report. Nonetheless, we can now look forward to Otedola vs Lawan Part 2, even though it might be easier to cry than to laugh from the revelations in the next episode.