MEMBERS of the House of Representatives will hold an emergency session tomorrow.
The main agenda is to decide whether to suspend the Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, Farouk Lawan, for collecting $620,000 cash from the Chairman of Forte Oil, Femi Otedola.
Last Sunday, Lawan said he did not collect any sum from Otedola, that the video, which caught him in the act, was doctored.
But, 24 hours later, he admitted collecting the sum to expose Otedola.
Since then, majority of his colleagues have been calling for his suspension.
The leadership of the House rose from a meeting yesterday to call for tomorrow's emergency session “for members to take a position on the matter”.
The call for the emergency session was sequel to a fresh allegation that the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over the consideration of the fuel subsidy report on April 24, 2012 may have been indirectly indicted by helping to remove Recommendation 29 which was against Zenon Oil, owned by Otedola.
It was gathered that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership is already shopping for a replacement for the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal and all the principal officers whom they claimed would not be able to absolve themselves from the complicity.
The emerging revelations of bribery against some individuals and the fresh allegation of N11 billion from some oil companies is giving the leadership of the House “serious headache”, hence the resolution to summon an emergency session tomorrow.
A statement signed by the Clerk of the House, Ataba Sani-Omolori, confirmed that the House would hold a special Plenary Session.
"This is to inform all Honourable members of the House of Representatives that the House would reconvene to hold a Plenary session on Friday, June 15th, 2012 at 10a.m. prompt. Honourable Members are advised to take note and attend promptly, please," the released stated.
The lawmakers had gone on one week recess on June 7, 2012 as part of their annual leave but following the public disclosure by Otedola that Lawan requested for $3 million and he gave him and the secretary of the committee, $620,000 based on security operatives' advice, “the leadership believes that action has to be taken immediately for Nigerians to see who is actually corrupt”.
Already, some principal officers and members of the committee are jittery over the emerging development and they are “holding other meetings to ensure that the matter is nipped in the bud”.
A source said Tambuwal has vowed to ensure that whoever is fingered in the deal will not go scot free.
Meanwhile, a chieftain of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Segun Adegoke, has expressed sadness over the Lawan scandal.
Adegoke, a lawyer, described the development as unfortunate in view of the negative implication it is likely to have on the reputation of the lawmaker who many people hold in high esteem.
His words: “It is now crystal clear to every Tom, Dick and Harry and all Nigerians that very few people in Nigeria can be trusted, especially those who will never see anything good in anybody.
“Now that Lawan has been exposed, there are still many loud mouth critics who ought to be exposed and who by the grace of God would have their secrets revealed very soon. As far as I am concerned, I am very, very sad.
If you look at the reputation of Lawan since he got to the National Assembly, a lot of people hold him in high esteem when they look at his performance until this latest scandal bordering on integrity. Nevertheless, I am praying to God that more of these loud mouth hypocrites should be exposed by God,” he stated.
On the implication the confession could have on the comment recently passed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on members of the National Assembly that they are rogues and armed robbers which drew criticisms from some of their members, the three-time commissioner in Ondo State said Obasanjo’s comment could be justified on the grounds that the Lawan scandal became public knowledge a few weeks after the one involving another chairman of the panel probing the capital market, Herman Hembe.
“When ex-President Obasanjo said National Assembly members are rogues, I said in the interview I granted that he is not a man who speak without having anything in his mind, it is now crystal clear that he knows what he was saying. If one, two or three people in an Assembly are rogues, it goes without saying that the rest are rogues.
We have seen that of Hembe, we have not finished with it and another Lawan issue occurred. So, would one be making a mistake to say that members of the National Assembly are rogues like Obasanjo said, is it not clear now? he asked.
On how to fight corruption, he said: “The continuation of strict sincere fight against corruption is the only way out. Lawan must be shown as an example. Nigeria must demonstrate that people must be punished for corruption. If the government fails to do this, then goodbye to Nigeria,” he declared.
Also, elder statesman and former Information Minister, Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday described as a shame and national embarrassment the Lawan bribery scandal.
Clark, who spoke in his country home, Kiagbodo, Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, said he was surprised over the allegation levelled against Lawan.
He also fumed over claims that the Federal Government stinks with series of corruption cases, saying corruption could not have started only two years ago when Jonathan mounted the saddle in the country.
Addressing newsmen, Clark said that if at the end of investigations, a prima facie is established against Otedola and Lawan, they both should be made to face the full wrath of the law.
He said that a thorough investigation must be instituted on the bribery allegation, saying: “It is a terrible thing that is happening. Lawan was a man I respected so much. I thought he was a better Speaker than anybody. He brought Bankole and he brought Tambuwal again and I look at him as a man who has so much integrity, moreso, he floated an organisation called the Integrity Group in the House.
“It is a great disappointment to everybody. I think it is the greatest bribery scandal that has happened that we should be ashamed of because many of us have the feeling that Lawan Farouk, member of the House of Representatives from Kano, was one of the best young men who we could rely upon, even there was a time I thought he could be the Speaker.
“Right from the time of Bankole when he came to me, I met him and we talked and I admire him more than any legislator in the House of Representatives.
“Both the giver and the receiver are criminals. They are serpents. They should be arrested and tried to serve as an example because what is going on in the legislature of this country is so worrisome. Some few weeks back, Obasanjo called them all sorts of names and I went to defend them that Obasanjo has no moral justification to accuse the legislators but what are we seeing today?
“Every public probe that has been carried out by the legislators has ended with corrupt charges. Is it the power probe where so much money was spent? The member of that committee was charged again for receiving bribe or being corrupted by the Rural Electrification Board. Is it the recent one of Stock Exchange? The chairman resigned and today, he’s facing trial.
“The whole system has collapsed. And so, I’m appealing to the legislators of this country, both in the Senate and particularly in the House of Representatives, to take drastic action to protect their names otherwise, Nigerians will lose confidence in them.
“All of them that have been accused of receiving bribe should be suspended. They should go home. Let them be charged to court and if they are acquitted, they can go back to the House. But today, criminals are parading themselves as celebrities.
“If legislators are corrupt and we are accusing other functionaries of government, where do we stand? Nobody is above the law so, Otedola and Lawan should face the law. They should be tried”.
Clark, however, called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to do a through job on the documents and the video tapes submitted on the scandal, saying: “People like us would like to hold a whole day press conference on this”.
Nonetheless, Clark disagreed on the insinuation that corruption is more rampant in the President Goodluck Jonathan administration than previous administrations.
He said: “I don’t share that view that corruption is more rampant in Jonathan’s tenure.
This is the trouble with Nigerians. When did Jonathan take over? Was it Jonathan’s time that “Ghana must Go” bags were taken to the House of Representatives? Is it in Jonathan’s time that the Speaker received money and they were removed? Was it Jonathan’s time that PTDF money was taken away and there were allegations between the Vice President and President?
“Is it Jonathan’s time that cars were bought with PTDF money? I’m not defending Jonathan but I think it is wrong. If the country is becoming a failed state, it didn't start with Jonathan. Jonathan should do something but one year is not enough for him to be accused of this or that”.