Oil Probe Scandal: Why I Am Not Interested

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


By Ifeanyi Odigwe


Shocker: Our politicians are corrupt.

Me: Yawn.

The ongoing melodrama involving the boyish-looking four-term lawmaker, Farouk Lawan from Kano State and the billionaire owner of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, Femi Otedola is being followed by Nigerians, with a reverence reserved only for one’s favorite soap opera. This particular soap makes for interesting watching with it’s unexpected twist, timeless narrative, gaudy characters and endless episodes.

It all started at the beginning of the year when the president egged on by his finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala removed “subsidy” from petroleum products. Nigerians protested and cried out that it would lead to hardship, economic difficulty and encourage thieving by the dreaded political class . Okonjo-Iweala responded with the patronising attitude we have come to expect from our government, claiming that the savings would be used to develop the other sectors of the economy, that it was for our own good and we weren’t capable of understanding the complicated economic analysis and maths leading up to the decision. The “literate” among us replied that we didn’t have a problem with the maths, we had a problem with our history. She pleaded for patience, we ignored.

The logjam was finally ended with the unprecedented invasion of Lagos State to scatter the peaceful protest; IN A DEMOCRACY.

Following the success of the protest nationwide and fearing the increasing power of the people to protest and ask tough questions of our leaders the national assembly decided to probe the payment of subsidy.  It’s worthy to note here that the it wasn’t the EFCC or the ICPC that initiated the probe; it begs the question why they are in existence.

The probe was lead by Farouk Lawan, the chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the subsidy. The committee uncovered illegal payment being made to oil companies to the tune of $6 billion involving 121 oil marketers, according to the report it was discovered that:
1. 17 marketers did not obtain FOREX but claimed to have imported  petroleum products.
2. 15 marketers obtained FOREX but did not import petroleum products.
3. 71 oil marketers to face probe and refund N230.1 billion
4. 18 oil marketers committed other infractions.

So in essence it turned out that the finance minister and her brain trust had been subsiding corruption. We were right, she was wrong. She is certainly a brillant lady but dangerously unaware of her environment.

The Lawan committee was universally praised by all, but in Nigeria a good name is worth right about nothing, sensing opportunity and a chance to pay down the pension of his unborn grand kids and probably their kids as well, he allegedly approached the Chairman of Zenon Oil with a fee of $3 million to buy out of the list of erring marketers. Mr Otedola rebuffed his (Lawan) advances, but Mr. Lawan continued with a boyish persistence that Mr Otedola was forced to part with a fifth of the money requested and got his company’s name off the list. This is where it usually ends in Nigeria, money exchanges hand and service is rendered, but not in this particular soap opera.

Weeks later, Mr Lawan was accused of demanding and accepting money. He vehemently denied that he did. When a video recording of the transaction surfaced he did a volte-face and claimed he had only collected the money because he was under pressure from Otedola. The video is said to be damning, showing Lawan stuffing money in his pocket and cap.

The case is now being investigated by the police and Lawan would soon be charged to court. The case is likely to end in three ways:
1. The Ibori justice :- Complete acquittal despite overwhelming evidence.
2. The Igbinedion justice :- Slap on the wrist.
3. The Bode George justice :- Actual jail term.
Considering that the third is extremely rare and has only been used once Lawan would probably play for time and wait for Nigerians to move on to the next scandal.

Like the villain in the drama whose world is falling apart as the plot thickens, he must feel like the victim rather than the aggressor. Why shouldn’t he? His crime is not that he lied, cheated, abused the public trust, solicited and received bribe, embarrassed himself and his family, all his peers do the same. His crime was that he got caught. That’s why the joke is on the rest of us.

Ifeanyi Odigwe


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