Otedola V Farouk – The National Assembly And The Public

8 years ago by: AYOOLA ADEBAYO
-- (m) at 8-07-2012 11:18PM

(621 | Upcoming)

So much has been said and written already on the subject of Otedola and Farouk that I would not be rehashing what has already been said.  The essence of this piece is to throw a new light into things and explore the different perspectives it presents.  This incident, from the start, has been shambolic and a national embarrassment, and it highlights the level of corruption in the polity and the level of protectionism that pervades in Nigeria.  I am referring here to the seeming, or rather, blatant conduct of the House of Representatives to cover up and settle a criminal matter in the usual 'paddy-paddy' style or 'family affair' way of resolving very serious issues, which, if it were other climes, the culprits and the dramatis personae would all be in court facing trials. 

It is a monumental shame and a huge embarrassment that since the probe into the fuel subsidy scam began, as far back as the first quarter of the year, nobody has been charged to court yet to face trial.  Rather, what we have witnessed so far has been one shambolic probe after another and one panel after another still investigating the matters, and the fallouts.  The first panel, a committee of the House, headed by the disgraced Farouk Lawan began the charade of investigations.  Instead of submitting the report of the investigation STRAIGHT AWAY to the Police, as done in other climes, or inviting the Police to look into the matters more thoroughly and investigate further for possible prosecution, he submitted his report to the House that empanelled his committee in the first place.   Not much wrong with that, one would say.

What the House ought to have done at that stage, also, on receiving the committee's report, was to forward it STRAIGHT to the Police to begin prosecution.  I was not impressed with the call on the House to forward the report to the Presidency.  Why did the report need to go before the Presidency first, instead of straight to the Police?   For Christ's sake we practice a constitutional democracy, where roles and duties are clearly defined in the constitution.  The Legislature, as the second arm of Government (and, therefore, part of the Federal Government) has the power to ask the Police, as do members of the public, to investigate any matter, without needing to first get clearance from the Presidency or the Attorney-General.   

In countries with effective INSTITUTIONS, for instance, such report had no business going up to the Presidency or any other place.   The Police should have waded in, IMMEDIATELY, as long as THERE IS A REASONABLE SUSPICION of the commission of a crime.   Like the Presidency, the National Assembly or indeed, anybody (including ordinary civilians, like you and I) can report the commission of a crime to the Police, without needing to first route it to the Presidency, any student of Government would tell you.   In other climes, the role of investigating crimes or offences is a matter for the Police or the security agencies.

For instance, the investigation into MPs expenses in the UK, a few years ago, did not need to go to the Queen or the Prime Minister or any other body for approval, before Scotland Yard took over the investigation.  Some MPs have been prosecuted for their roles in the malfeasance.

The House, nevertheless, met and sat over the report, and agreed it, as 'amended' by Farouk.  And instead of forwarding the findings to the Police, they sent it to the Presidency.  The Attorney-General, too, instead of redirecting the Legislatures to submit their findings to the Police, that is empowered to investigate and prosecute wrong doings and crimes, promised the nation to review the report.  Why?  Why is it necessary for the Attorney General to review a fact finding investigation report by the House or National Assembly?

And why did the Police need his go-ahead before they would swoop in and arrest all those found culpable or had cases to answer, in their opinion?  And all this while, and even up till now, what is the Police still waiting for?

Since the Otedola v Farouk bribe scandal exploded, the House (National Assembly) has deemed it necessary to start another round of Investigation into the matter, instead of calling on the Police, who appear to be sitting lazily on their backsides, to investigate the matters.  It is bizarre and sad that the same House that suspended Farouk (and rightly so) allowed the same Farouk to still attend the House sitting, and he left after a while, of his own accord, without any member raising an eyebrow.  How can a member suspended from sitting in the House stroll in majestically and sit through the day's deliberations and leave afterwards, and when he liked, from what we read?

As I mentioned above, the House began another fresh round of investigation, according to them, to find out more about Farouk's culpability, instead of inviting the Police to investigate and charge Farouk to court and allow the courts to decide his culpability.    What more evidence does the House want to gather, which is not already out in the open?  Is it Farouk's earlier statements that he never met behind closed doors with Otedola or that whatever video that existed must have been doctored; or that he collected the money intending to catch Otedola in the act (of giving him bribe) or that the money was not bribe but a 'Christmas present' (a case of Santa arriving his home too early).  Or, may be the present was a belated Santa's present for last year's Christmas.

What further investigation is the House conducting?  And why did they need to do this or threaten Otedola with arrest if he did not appear in the House?  I must commend Otedola's handlers, as, if I was in their position, I would have also advised my client to appear before the House, if forced, but to maintain a dignified silence.  Farouk has been indicted or implicated for sleaze or graft, supported by hard evidence.

The purported video evidence, voice recording and the subsequent action by Farouk of de-listing Otedola's company in front of his colleagues, before the report was adopted, are all hard evidence. The House should wait for the Courts to clear him or indict and convict him, and stop trying to hold a trial before a trial.  What is the point of trying Farouk and/or Otedola before the House?  And what is the role of the Police if it is now down to the House to conduct investigations into the criminality or culpability of individuals to a crime?

And to make matters worse, I read that the Federal Government has also set up yet another committee to investigate the outcome of another report on the fuel subsidy scam?  Why does the Federal Government need to do this?  What is the role of the Police then?  A dormant, sitting lame-duck organisation?  A useless (i.e. of no use) body?  Or a body of incompetent and crass people?  It is clear from all these that the Government (the Legislature and Presidency inclusive) has no faith in our Police or they do not understand the job or role of the Police as an INSTITUTION in our democracy.  This would not surprise me , as I observed a lot of ignorance during my recent visit to Nigeria.  Ignorance, even from those that ought to know or claim to know.   

The Police, it appears also, do not understand its responsibilities and its role in the society.   The Police has allowed itself to be relegated from being the foremost INSTITUTION for maintaining Law and order, and detecting, arresting and bringing criminals to book.  The Police, as an INSTITUTION, has been battered to the extent that they do not understand their duties and their job any more.  I blame the Military era for this.

The Constitution, the Police Act and the Criminal Procedure Code (or the Penal code) are all clear about the powers of the Police.  They empower the Police as the agency responsible for the prevention and detection of crimes and the INVESTIGATION and PROSECUTION of crimes. Police work begins when there is a REASONABLE SUSPICION OF THE COMMISSION OF A CRIME.  A crime does not need to have been committed before the Police can act.  A REASONABLE SUSPICION that a crime could have been committed is sufficient for the Police to act and start investigation. I often wonder what the Police is waiting for in this case of Otedola v Farouk, when the evidence and the facts are so glaring and clear for all to see (including laymen or lay members of the public). 

It is very sad, reading that the Police claim that they have come to a dead end or reached a deadlock, simply because a person, who OPENLY ADMITTED TO TAKING MONEY (bribe) cannot produce the money.  Instead of coming to a crossroad or dead end, isn't this fact, that Farouk can no longer produce the money that HE ADMITTED COLLECTING, the main ingredient of the offence or the bribe?  Isn't this proof or evidence that Farouk did not intend to keep the money for safe keeping or intend to return the money, as he is now claiming?  Isn't this conclusive proof that Farouk meant to keep the money for himself permanently and had already started spending it, if he cannot produce the alleged 'marked' notes? 

I sometimes cannot believe my eyes concerning what I read about the country.  I quiver when I read things like this in the press.  It is bizarre and unbelievable, when I read that an INSTITUTION like the Police Force, an organisation that presumably still has a Legal department, does not see anything worth prosecuting in this matter, that appears so cut and dry, and they and the SSS are now allegedly passing the buck between themselves. 

What does the Police make of the ADMISSION by Farouk or his numerous and INCONSISTENT statements?  Isn't this enough pointer that this man is simply LYING through his teeth and trying one spin after another yarn.  Where is the man's credibility, by telling one bare faced lie after another? 

The man, Otedola, despite his perceived past or people's perception or misgivings about him, is the innocent victim in all of this, especially given the manner the House has been treating or acting towards him.  Otedola may have a bad past, however, that isn't what is on trial today.  The FACT in issue or the matter on trial is the allegation that Farouk, a public officer, collected bribe from him to de-list or remove his company from a list of wrong doers.  Otedola is not the issue, as Farouk's committee had absolved him of any wrong doing and gave him a clean slate.  What we see, however, was a carefully orchestrated trap set by Otedola (allegedly working in cohort with the security services) to catch the thief (Farouk) and he fell inside the trap.  Why he set the trap is a matter for him (Otedola) to disclose another day, but let us not confuse the issues.   Today, the issue is about the admission of bribe-taking by Farouk, which he had initially denied, until confronted with evidence!  Although he still argues that it wasn't a bribe.  In due course, he will explain what the money is for when he gets to court!  That is, if they ever allow the matter to get to court!

Otedola in my view is like an angler or a fisherman who, while planning (plotting) to catch a fish, puts baits on a fishing rod, and lays in wait for a fish that would prey or fall for the bait.  And unknown to the fish, this is just a bait waiting to catch it, while prying eyes are waiting and watching the fish swallow the bait and it is hooked in the process by the fishing rod.    Another example is a person who sets a trap for a rat, in order to catch it.  Like the case of the fish, the rat is lured to the bait, and eventually clamped by the trap.  In the two instances, is it the person who catches the rat that is the problem or the rat, which was caught by the trap?  And would we also argue that because the person who set the trap put a piece of bread on it (as bait), does this make the person a 'giver' or complicit with the rat?   Or following the argument of some, he is equally guilty, as the 'giver'.

I know that at times like this, everybody, including lay members of the public, become Lawyers overnight and come up with all sorts of doctrines, including postulating that both the 'giver' and the 'taker' of bribe are both guilty, irrespective of whether one party was setting the other up or just simply playing along or goading the other.  I pardon those sentiments and do not even bother with them.  I wish these clever by half people would show the same dexterity and brilliance when next their roads within their Local Governments and States are not tarred or fixed, and would go after the Local Government Chairmen to demand from them what they do with the Government allocations collected every month, which includes money to fix or repair roads? 

For too long, those people in the Local Governments administrations have been allowed to get away with blue murder by collecting Government allocations (as the third tier of Government) with nothing to show for it, except very bad roads.   I wish they would use similar clever arguments to urge these Local Government politicians to start governing well.  However, their argument won't wash in this instance.

Farouk Lawan

As for Farouk, I wouldn't say more about this individual that has not already been said, except advise him to stop making a fool of himself and slowing down the long arm of justice.  Like a cheap or common thief, he fell for a bait and bungled an otherwise, good work or job of exposing those that have been fleecing the country and the Nigerian people.  He missed an opportunity to write his name in gold with an indelible ink for a pot of dollar notes.  What a shame!  He should understand that discerning minds are not fooled by his gymnastics or antics and his twists and turns, like a mouse wagging its tail in every direction after being trapped.  His day of reckoning would come sooner than later. 

Once the House has completed its charade, whether they give him a soft landing or not, the Police should move in to investigate him and charge him to court.  Let him have his day in court and tell us whether Christmas came too soon for him that he sent 'TJ' to collect money from Otedola.  As a public officer he is forbidden from collecting money from a person that he is investigating, whether he agrees it is bribe or not.  And by virtue of that money (or bribe) he now de-listed, as he had promised to do, Otedola's company from among the list of malfeasant companies or group of those that fleeced the country of the fuel subsidy.   In order words, he freed Otedola of wrong doing.
National Assembly

The House of Reps should discontinue any further charade of a hearing or their show of shame and immediately allow the Police to do their job and take over from where they stopped.  It isn't their business to investigate their member for criminal conduct, but that of the Police and the Courts.  If he is later absolved by the courts, he can return to the House and continue with the 'paddy-paddy' in the House.   They must understand that they are not the Law courts.  And they must also stop the harassment and their intimidation of Nigerians and the threat to arrest people.  They had no right to criticise or insult Otedola, who refused to cooperate with their closed door sham investigation or trial before a trial, like they did.  Besides, they cannot force him or anybody to talk, if they do not want to talk.  Even parties in a Law court are not obliged to assist the court or say anything.  The House should also stop appearing to be taking sides and protecting their own! 
The Public

As I have said before, this matter has become an every comer affair.  All of a sudden everyone is now a criminal lawyer, and seem to suddenly know the law about the 'giver' and 'taker' of bribe.  The entire affair has become a circus or public show.  Let us hope that the drama and the entire episode would not die in the public arena, but would play out or end up in court.  The other day I read that the circus show was now going to play out on Television and that the Police plans to show further incriminating videos on TV.  Why?  And what for?  Whose benefit is this?  Cases are not heard and decided in people's court (or the court of public opinions) but in the Law courts.  Whatever video evidence that exists, it should wait until the Police presents it in court, and not on TV!

As for the Police, now is the time to act!  They must stop waiting for laymen and untrained civilian investigators in either the House or the Presidency, with no formal investigation skills or techniques, to help them to do their job!  Wake up from your slumber and prosecute all those implicated, whether on the original list or those that are yet to be disclosed!  It is the DUTY and responsibility of the Police to INVESTIGATE the COMMISSION of a CRIME.  I rest!

-- Unikpearl (f) at 10-07-2012 01:27AM
(3048 | Gistmaniac)

Naija and corruption
-- Treasure2 (f) at 10-07-2012 12:42PM
(18088 | Hero)

Is a can of worm that has eaten so deep.