Otedola has a case to answer – lawyers
Against the backdrop of the unfolding bribery drama between business mogul and oil magnate, Femi Otedola and Farouk Lawan, and an orchestrated media campaign to exculpate Otedola, our correspondents compile the views of a cross-section of Nigerian lawyers. Their verdict? Otedola, the bribe-giver, has a case to answer.
Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN
He dismissed the idea that it was a sting operation as Otedola has failed to convince “every discernible mind because the claim and position he canvassed in his narration of how the $620,000 was offered to Lawan was not in tandem with the process of entrapping.”
“Otedola failed to appeal to common sense by exposing the fraud whole 40 days after he had allegedly offered the bribe to Lawan to kill the House oil subsidy probe.
“The matter was made easy for Otedola to handle because he claimed that Lawan came to his house in Abuja to collect the bribe. If actually he put the security in the know of how he was being allegedly pressured to offer bribe against his conscience, Lawan should have been arrested at that point.
“In security circles and anywhere in the world, the victim is arrested on the spot when entrapping is being applied. But this was not the case in this issue and that was where I thought all these allegations against Lawan are senseless, for now.
“Marked money is usually done by applying powder on the money and this cannot last more than 24 hours. So, this issue is beyond my comprehension for now. The relevance of “entrapping” was lost as it means in security and legal terms “immediate arrest or on-the-spot capturing of a person involved in corrupt practices”.
Dr Joe Nwobike (SAN)
“These allegations as they stand today, we all know, have not been proved. But I’m told that it appears the matter will shift to the court. So, I’ll suggest that we allow it to go court so that the guilt or otherwise of Lawan may be ascertained.
“But let me say that it is not good for the exercise, which all Nigerians including myself, looked forward to, to revamp the downstream sector of the oil industry.
“As it stands today, I do not share the views of so many Nigerians who say, ‘Take away Hon. Lawan and implement the report. I think they are intertwined. You cannot take away Hon. Lawan from the report and vice versa.
“This is particularly in view of the weighty allegations against Hon. Lawan, who, incidentally, was the chairman of that committee.
“So, if those allegations are proved, the factored implication will be that there were several acts of impropriety leading to that report and, therefore, is a product of a flawed process.
“Therefore, the implementation of the report must await the determination of whether or not Lawan actually participated in the improper conduct that is being alleged.
“If it is so, then I will suggest that another panel be set up to look at the papers again, the individuals, the participants, the characters, the allegations.
“So, I don’t see any reason we should be in a hurry to implement the process which has been questioned in certain, very clear fundamental terms.”
Barrister (Dr.) Fredrick Ahmadu
“It is unfortunate that our criminal justice system, though exists, is slow and hardly bites the rich and influential. The laws are there, but old and susceptible to abuse and manipulation by those with financial influence. We only hope the law enforcement agencies and the powers that be will allow the application of law and due process in this case.”
“It should be pointed out that the on-going media trial of Mr Lawan promoted by the Presidency is a violation of the fundamental right of the suspect to fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution.
“If the government has the evidence of the bribery, it should proceed to charge Mr Lawan to court without any further delay. On his part Mr Lawan should co-operate with the Police since he claimed that he set out to trap Mr Otedola! The House should move speedily to put this embarrassing incident behind it. Any of its members indicted in the bribe-for-clearance scandal should be isolated and handed over to the Police for prosecution.
“Since Mr Otedola claims to be a law-abiding citizen and that he committed no criminal offence whatsoever, he should explain to Nigerians through the media how the over $232 million allegedly collected by Zenon from the CBN was spent on the importation of fuel. Specifically, Mr Otedola should react to the allegation that Zenon engaged in diversion and round tripping of the said sum of $232 million.
“No doubt, the bribery saga is designed to discredit the House report. In fact, the members of the cartel aided by the government are celebrating their vindication. Notwithstanding the unfortunate scandal, the report of the House on the fuel subsidy scam has not been tainted in any material particular.
“It is now clear beyond any shadow that the above findings and recommendations cannot be wished away by any person or group of persons no matter their vested interests or political connections.
“In fairness to the Jonathan administration, apart from asking the EFCC to investigate and prosecute all the culprits without exception, it has begun to implement some aspects of the House Committee Report. For instance, the auditors who colluded with the economic saboteurs to doctor the books have been sacked while the 2012 budget of N880 billion for fuel subsidy emanated from the Report.
“In the circumstance, the belated diversionary ploy of the oil cartel has failed woefully to frustrate the implementation of the Report of the House.
“Let the EFCC, therefore, speed up its investigation so that the suspects can be made to pay for the serious economic crimes against humanity committed by them.”
Yinka Farounbi (NBA Lagos)
“As regards whoever is found culpable, it is my candid opinion that the law is a blind human being. It doesn’t respect anybody, it doesn’t know anybody. Whoever comes contrary to the dictate of the law should be made to face the music. There should be no sacred cows. Everybody must be made to dance his or her act or omission.
“That is when the country will move forward. By the time we are not doing selective judgment or selective justice, you will see that we would get to where God has destined this country to be, investigate the giver, investigate the taker.
“If the two of them are found culpable or some other persons found culpable, please take them to court and let them face the music appropriately. The law should be allowed to take its course in this matter.”
Kazeem Adebanjo (NBA Lagos)-
“I urge President Jonathan to urgently act on the report. Let that be taken aside because you would discover that Otedola’s firm was removed from the list of those who were indicted and the House has restored his name by their resolution. So, it means that the report stands the way it had been before being tampered with. So, nothing is amiss. I want to believe that those who are hyping and orchestrating this story just want to shift our attention from the task carried out by this committee.
Don’t forget that it was not only Farouk Lawan that served on this committee. There were some other eminent lawmakers who served on it.
“On Farouk , I think the House has done the right thing they need to do by suspending him. So, he should be made to undergo investigation, after which, if found culpable, they should deal with him as required by the law”.
Joe Nwokedi (Rights activist)
“The scenario that is playing out in our supposed honourable House of Representatives is quite disheartening. The most worrisome aspect of it is that they refused to learn their lessons.
“They are likened to the unrepentant robbers in the society who think that the other robbers were caught because they were not smart enough and, therefore, continue in their robbery until one day they are caught also. As for the report, it cannot stand because it has been tainted with serious immorality and bias and heavily yoked with some legal burdens.
“Since the sanctity and impartial status of the members of the committee that produced it is in serious doubt, no one can vouch that the report was not highly compromised.
“It will, therefore, be inequitable and unjust to rely on such a controversial report. It should be thrown out in its entirety and a fresh committee be set up to do the job properly. I am in pains.”
Barrister Theophilus Akanwa
“I had thought that this sort of allegation would not recur after the exit of Mr Bankole. The bribery scandal is a very big shame and a national disgrace. If the allegations are confirmed to be true, Mr Lawan should bury himself in shame and the appropriate authorities should immediately prefer a criminal charge against him including Mr Otedola who gave the bribe.
“Following the drama relating to removal of certain names at the floor of the House, I call for the setting up of another committee to investigate the subsidy saga, bearing in mind the sufferings of Nigerians in the hands of these people who don’t mean well for the common man.”
Barrister Richard Chukwuocha
“Much as the development is saddening, the law may exempt the bribe giver in this case. Since Otedola worked with security agents in bursting the crime, he could be exempted from punishment.
“The man, who admitted giving bribe in this case, did not work alone. He was approached to give bribe; he saw it as an offence and went to the security agencies. He cannot be held liable for any offence.
Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL)
“It is also in the public domain that Speaker Aminu Tambuwal confronted Farouk Lawan with the video clip of his criminal misdemeanour. Lawan is reported to have owned up, partly to a certain sum and not the bribe sums in full. However, further revelations have forced Lawan’s hands and he has since accepted receiving the sum of five hundred thousand dollars from Femi Otedola.
“Farouk Lawan is merely the face, disgraced by the outcome of his own perfidious adventure, of an orchestrated network of members who work the committee system to intimidate and harass sections of our polity for bribes. The committee system feeds into the culture of settlement and patronage promoted by the leadership of the House.
“No one becomes chairman, or vice chairman and, or a member of a juicy committee if that individual has no capacity to deliver the perfidious. To deliver means to make monetary returns to the Speaker.
“Farouk Lawan was the Speaker’s principal pick to head the Ad hoc committee, and the Speaker’s decision was either borne out of a warped commitment to our country or he misjudged his men. Public Interest Lawyers League thinks it is neither. He protected his men.
“Otedola and those involved are all culpable and should be arrested and prosecuted accordingly”.