Uche Igwe: Where is the Faroukgate Report?

Farouk LawanNigerians, it seems, have a short memory. We suffer from collective amnesia. Doctors say those who suffer from this ailment forget very easily; but our case is chronic and complicated. The type that deliberately conjures reasons to justify even the unjustifiable. Our reasons are often ethnic, religious, filial or even conjugal but always selfish, self-seeking and unpatriotic. They are manufactured to provide escape routes for those caught in a bad behaviour especially corruption to go in peace and enjoy their kill. Otherwise, why would you explain that Farouk Lawan representing Bangwai/ Shanono Federal Constituency of Kano State, is still walking around a free man? Here is a man who woke up and admitted before the media that he actually collected the sum of $620,000 from businessman Femi Otedola, to allegedly clear his companies after denying same for many days. In a few days, Lawan had reportedly changed his story three times finally settling that the amount was actually taken as exhibit and kept in the custody of his colleague, an allegation, which was categorically denied by the said lawmaker who threatened a court action.

Both the Nigerian Police and the Ethics Committee of the House of Representatives, who purportedly investigated the matter, have yet to make public their findings or at best charge Lawan to court. One will recall that the Ethics Committee promised to submit its report within two weeks. It is now more than six months and everyone is quiet. There are a few questions that ordinary Nigerians watching these intrigues are asking (or should ask) which are worth our reflection. Or have we forgotten again? Where is the $620,000 allegedly collected by Lawan? Why is the leadership of the House of Representatives reluctant to deal decisively with such a contentious issue that has tainted its image, for the umpteenth time, before the Nigerian public? What role did the Nigeria Police play in all of these? Why is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission keeping quiet over such a critical issue?

The strength of any legislature in a democracy lies in its core duties of appropriation and oversight which are essentially vigilance against executive excesses and corruption. However, it seems that our legislature is increasingly losing sight of these constitutional responsibilities. What we hear is that corruption can go as far as we ‘take our own share of the cake’. How sad? When the bribery scandal involving Lawal broke open, many people pointed fingers of complicity at the leadership of the House. More so, the drama that played out during the apparently pre-rehearsed session where Lawan raised the controversial motion for the clearance of Otedola’s companies, after he allegedly received the gratification, was enough to raise questions. Dependable sources have alleged that the House leadership might have influenced the ethics committee to hand a clean bill of health to Lawan in its yet-to-be released report. What does that say about such a leadership?

Another point is to examine the role of the Nigeria Police. Such a high profile case provided an acid test of the style of the Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Abubakar. We were told that the Police were investigating the matter and even allegedly arrested Lawan. Does it mean that they have not concluded yet? What is there to investigate about a man who publicly admitted guilt? I hear that the Police needed the bribe money as exhibit before the court. Really? One wonders if the evidence provided by the video and the confession of Lawan is insufficient to put him in jail, if ours is a sane society. What is the Police waiting for to charge this man to court or are they employing delay tactics so that Nigerians can forget? Is this part of the code of conduct that the IG is touting about? There is a danger that many may use this to assess the commitment of the leadership of the Nigeria Police to the issues of corruption and criminality.

Another important point is that the EFCC does not seem to be interested in prosecuting Lawan even when it has arraigned some of those indicted in the fuel subsidy scam. How come? Is this not the selectivity that has almost ruined public perception of the foremost anticorruption agency? A top official of the EFCC once reportedly boasted that if the case of Lawan came before him as a judge, he would put him in jail. So why is the EFCC as an agency refusing to just do that? Are they acting a different chapter of the same script that their sister agency, the Nigeria Police, is orchestrating?

Let us, on a final note, examine the response of Nigerians and how our behaviour is encouraging the impunity that we are getting from the political class. I will use two examples. I saw Farouk Lawan last in Sokoto during the honorary doctorate award to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and others. As soon as he (Lawan) walked into the arena, he surprisingly drew a loud ovation from the audience. I wondered why would a man that had brought shame and opprobrium on both himself and his people would draw an ovation. To an observer, it means that either the people do not care about the scandal he is submerged in or they are tacitly in support of his alleged inappropriate behaviour. Where is our morality? Such attitude will only embolden rather than discourage potential corrupt elements.

I will draw my second example from the response of some civil society leaders from the North as soon as the scandal broke out. I know some “activists” who ran to the media (on Lawan’s behalf) and used all forms of antics to distort the story in an attempt to deceive the public apparently because “their” brother was involved. I weep that such sectional tendencies have infected the only constituency I call my own. Before now, Nigerians trusted the civil society leaders to speak out about corruption and bad governance regardless of who was involved but the Lawan saga have clearly exposed that things are changing.

Many Nigerians are still asking about the whereabouts of the Faroukgate report because that incident and how it is handled have a lot to say about the extent of decay in our democracy. It is not only Farouk Lawan that is on trial. The leadership of the House of Representatives, it must be stated, is on trial. The Nigeria Police and its leadership are also on trial. The EFCC is on trial. The Nigerian Civil Society and media are on trial. Our democracy and our nation are on trial. The Jonathan administration is on trial more so given the President oft-mouthed pledge to tackle corruption headlong. Even you and I who suffer from selective amnesia are on trial too.


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