• Relist Otedola’s Zenon In Probe Report
• Insist On Credibility Of Report
EMBATTLED Farouk Lawan was yesterday suspended as chairman of the House of Representatives Committee that probed the management of fuel subsidy regime, following an emergency session to deliberate on his involvement in the alleged $3m bribery scandal.
The House said Lawan should face the law, if found guilty in the $3million bribery scam and equally ordered the investigation of Mr. Boniface Emenalo, secretary of the committee, by the National Assembly and impose necessary sanction, if found guilty.
The lawmakers also restored Zenon Oil and Gas Limited and Synopsis Enterprise Limited on the list of companies earlier indicted by the report as corruptly receiving subsidy payments.
John Enoh (PDP, Obubra, Cross River) was appointed in his place.
Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas Limited, Mr. Michael Otedola, had last weekend confirmed that he had offered Lawan $620,000 to have his (Otedola’s) companies removed from the list of indicted companies in the probe, in a sting operation with the State Security Service (SSS).
Lawan initially denied the allegation, but later admitted personally collecting $500,000 from Otedola, as he put it, “to expose him,” while the Clerk of the Committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, also notified him of collecting another $100,000.
But the legislators have thrown their weight behind the credibility of the report of the committee.
Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who presided over the special emergency session yesterday, stated that the resolutions of the House over the fuel subsidy regime remained valid despite the recent controversy trailing it, following bribery allegations against Lawan, insisting that the report and resolutions taken on it by the House stood.
He rejected insinuations that the House
had compromised its stance against anti-graft as a result of the scandal, assuring that the House would stand by the report of the probe, despite the allegations.
“The House will never be intimidated by any antics. We must as a country, separate individual from an institution,” Tambuwal said, adding that the House would not at anytime compromise its stance.
The Speaker also challenged the executive arm of government to match words with actions, just as he stressed: “We shall not be intimidated by any group of persons or executive.”
He went on: “We remain resolute and committed to the execution of our constitutional mandate whatever the hazards. We must never, repeat, never be cowed or intimidated by any form or colour of antics that may be fashioned with intent to dampen our spirits and or break our resolve.
“It remains for me to say that when the army suffers causalities of a few officers and men at the battle front, it beats no retreat, except it does not intend to win the battle.
“I am confident that men and women of integrity and character are in the overwhelming majority in our fold and we do not lack the numbers to prosecute the battle.
“We shall be judged not only by our words but more so by our actions.”
Tambuwal, who was given a standing ovation by members who passed a vote of confidence on the current leadership, stated: “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.”
He added: “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 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 some media 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 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.”
In his contribution, Minority Whip, Samson Osagie, emphasized that the offence was committed by one lawmaker and should not be used as blackmail on the National Assembly.
He, however, warned other lawmakers to desist from any acts that could tarnish the image of the legislature by living above board.
“The incident shouldn’t have happened in the first instance, but since it has happened, we should allow the rule of law to take its course.
“We will refuse to be blackmailed, as the executive is using the security apparatus to hunt the legislature,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Lawan, who has been referred to the Ethics and Privileges Committee, was still in police custody at the Force Headquarters in Abuja; hence absent at the session.
Zenon was earlier exonerated from any
wrongdoing in the report following a motion by Lawan on the floor of the House on April 14, this year when the report was adopted, saying additional documents available to him after the report had been submitted indicated that Zenon did not partake in the Petroleum Support Fund, (PSF) and so should be cleared, a motion that was overwhelmingly carried without any dissenting voice.
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