Mock Lawan-Otedola scandal
AHEAD of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) 37th yearly convention holding in New Orleans, United States (U.S.) this week, Nigeria yesterday came under severe criticisms as envoys and security agencies focused on the worrisome corruption in the country.
Most of their comments were provoked by the current Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola $620,000 bribery scandal emanating from the House of Representatives’ probe of the nation’s controversial fuel subsidy regime.
The envoys told The Guardian that corruption cases that often emanate from Abuja and the alleged indifference of key Federal Government’s officials were a threat to the country’s democracy and economic development.
Suspended Chairman of the House Ad-Hoc Probe Committee of Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan and Chairman of Zenon Nigeria Limited, Mr. Femi Otedola, recently opened another phase in the corruption cases in Nigeria when the lawmaker was accused by the latter of collecting $620,000 bribe to remove his company’s name from the panel’s report.
The diplomats from the U.S. and G-7 countries, who are in New Orleans, Louisiana, feared the sensational case could bring down Nigeria’s democracy, adding that it would soon be treated as a normal occurrence by the authorities.
The envoys and top intelligence and security chiefs in the U.S, were yesterday exchanging ideas on issues that affect Nigeria as the American Vice President Senator Joe Biden is expected to address NABJ session.
Some of the envoys asked The Guardian several questions on developments in Nigeria. One of them, who had served in Nigeria, said: “Corruption is like a fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy there, and it does not shock even the media there anymore…”
New Orleans has a large concentration of black population in Louisiana.
The diplomats said the international community was concerned that Nigeria as “a very strategic regional leader in Africa is reputed for unbridled official corruption and money-laundering cases, which are threatening to diminish its potential and fame.”
Another diplomats, who claimed to be a researcher on African affairs and on the Niger Delta region, said: “From the reading of Nigeria, only a tiny section of its news media has been serious about covering corruption cases. In fact, some of the media organs, from available pieces of empirical evidence on ground, are seen to be covering up corruption cases. They assist the corrupt system to thrive. Corruption cases are not new in Nigeria. They are also in the West too. But the only institution that can help fight corruption is the mass media by first being independent and then assist in naming corrupt citizens, then the anti-corruption agencies and the courts shame. But it seems to us from diplomatic dispatches from Nigeria that the mass media are too dependent on the state for sustenance and so they find it difficult to cover corruption issues.”
An envoy, who said he retired from the British Police, said “that country (Nigeria) needs help from the way they discuss stealing of public funds with recklessness that beats anybody’s imagination.”
The retired British police officer who contributed to the “colloquium” on Nigeria at the New Orleans Hilton Hotel, Riverside, said: “In the United Kingdom (UK), there are about 43 forces and they are independent. We do not have inspector-general (IG) and all the big officers you call DIGs, AIGs in Nigeria. Each of the 43 police forces in most cases is headed by a chief constable. The structure of the police force in Nigeria encourages inefficiency and waste of public funds on the big bosses. The top is too heavy and too hierarchical. In the UK, police retire at 50 and after that, the officer still assists the system through consultancy services. In Nigeria, it is not like that. You have to aspire to be the IGP…It is wonderful as you can be inspector-general there without any skill and even education in modern policing…”
He called for the reform of the Nigeria Police Force to make it more compact and efficient, especially in community policing.
“There is no room for a centralised police force in a federal state such as Nigeria that I have visited. It is too unwieldy and they don’t have modern policing tools, especially in the areas of technology.
“That is why they can’t handle corruption cases. They need more educated people in the force. Policing is not for ill-educated people…It is for the brightest and the best that can handle complexity and mysteries that mark fraud cases in the modern world of technology…”
Similarly, another envoy took up the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation on the corruption saga in Nigeria.
He said the AGF should be the one to prosecute “big and tough criminals. But in Nigeria, sometimes, we read stories of how the AGF withdraws cases filed against alleged criminals and fraudsters. Concluded investigations should not stay too long before charging them to court. The police cannot replace the courts. The court is the final arbiter on criminal cases in every society…”