Aftermath of oil subsidy probe: Tension grips Rep over alleged $3m bribery scandal

2012-06-09
THE NATION Newspaper- Yusuf Alli

Barely a year into its tenure, another $3 million bribery scam is rocking the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime.

A prominent member of the committee was alleged to have collected $600,000 from the Chairman of an oil firm to 'influence' the report of the panel, which was submitted on April 18, 2012.

The video of the bribe transaction may be aired on some television stations and YouTube.
But a principal officer of the House said it was the prominent member who blew the lid open to security agencies by reporting an attempt by an oil baron to bribe him with $600,000.

The officer said when the vocal member from the North-West attempted to present the $600,000 publicly at the House plenary, he was prevailed upon by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to do so in order not to embarrass the ruling party.
As at press time, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was said to be probing the bribery scam and the affected Ad Hoc Committee member may be interrogated.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the scandal broke with palpable tension in the House on Wednesday.
But some influential members have been trying to suppress the information from filtering out.
It was gathered that the influential members claimed that since the affected Ad Hoc Committee Representatives is a member of the Integrity Group, it would not be tidy to wash their dirty linen in the public.

But The Nation was able to scoop how the $3 million bribe deal was sealed.
Findings confirmed that the oil magnate had allegedly approached the key figure/coordinator in the committee to save his companies from embarrassment for allegedly benefiting from oil subsidy.

The baron had allegedly offered $3 million to the key figure-member in the Ad Hoc Committee with a pledge to pay $600,000 as initial deposit.
With the deal, it was gathered that the key figure in the panel 'doctored' the report to clear the two companies belonging to the oil baron of any shady deal among the 15 marketers that obtained FOREX but did not import petroleum products.

But upon fulfilling his own obligation after the report was submitted, the oil baron was said to have reneged in his pledge to pay outstanding $2.4 million.
A top member of the House, who spoke in confidence, said: "When we met on Wednesday in camera, the affected Ad Hoc Committee member admitted collecting $600,000 from the oil baron who is close to the Presidency.
"He, however, said he decided to play along with the oil baron, who featured prominently as one of the sponsors of 2011 presidential election, to get concrete evidence or proof to bribe him.

"But he refused to even disclose to members of the panel what transpired between him and the oil baron until the bubble burst. He said he only told the Chairman of the House Committee on Narcotics and Financial Crimes about the bribe offer.

" The revelation has shocked many members of the House, but some of our leaders are begging us to treat it as purely internal affairs and let by-gones be by-gones.

"It has also confirmed our suspicion that there was a lot of underhand dealing during the conduct of the probe into payment for fuel subsidy.

"The leadership is so much disturbed about the rumour but it has however claimed that it has not got the details.

"What members are saying is that when a chairman of the House Committee had a pending case of dud cheque before the EFCC, he was allowed to face the music. Now, they are using a different yardstick for a caucus member or a member of the House think-tank.

"What is worrisome is why this leader who collected the $600,000 waited till 40 days after the debate of the Ad Hoc Committee's Report before raising bribery alarm."

Another high-ranking member of the House said: "We are suspecting that some forces in government used the oil baron to set up this vocal coordinating member of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy.
"From the facts available to us, the oil baron has him on tape on how they negotiated and how he collected the money. A biro-like video tape was used to record him.
"This tape will be made available to the EFCC for investigation of the bribery scam. There is no way the House member will not face trial to prove a point that he cannot cast the first stone.

"I think he should have been a step ahead of those plotting against him. Now, the allegation of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo against lawmakers will be justified.
"This respected member was not circumspect at all. Why should he meet a key member of the cabal in the oil sector that he is investigating?
"But they are miscalculating because the oil baron is closer to the powers that be and this will be another corruption stain on this government.
The third member from the House said: "We will not accept anything other than an open probe into this latest scandal. They want to sweep it under the carpet but it will not work.
"We want the government to air the video of the deal on TV and YouTube to serve as a lesson to others."

A principal officer, who spoke in confidence last night, said: "Officially, the matter has not been communicated to us. Once it is done, we know the step to take."

The acting Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said: "I am making contacts trying to confirm whether we are handling such a case or not."
The House Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime was inaugurated on January 8, 2012.

 

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