The moral limits of Otedola's bait money By Nasiru Suwald

To say that Nigeria is a country in search of heroes is to be saying the obvious, thus, when at the weekend, a story started the rounds via many online media forums and newspaper websites, about the corrupt escapades a member of the Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Probe, I knew my fellow country folks are out for another shattered dreams.

To be fair to my countrymen and women, this time around most people received the news with studied rejection. It was a near universal chorus of rejection because of the saturation complex of Nigerians at the failure of every investigating panel to come to successful closure. Besides too, the sector of the economy under investigation was of such import that most people wanted to see a way forward. 

For these reasons, some even went to the extent of calling for the arrest of Mr. Femi Otedola, basing their call on why a Nigerian citizen would openly celebrate offering a bribe, especially a senior member of the much derided oil cabal. After all, the contents of our codified laws have dictated solicitation as well as offering of a bribe as a crime, thus upon what basis could the security agencies collaborates with him in such illegal perfidy? Perhaps the general impression gets finally gets an anchor that the executive branch, being highly involved in the oil subsidy scam, might have engineered the governmental resolve to kill the report by shooting at its head.

It is logical to finger the government of having a hidden interest in the findings of oil subsidy report, especially because most of the indicted were the principal financiers of the ruling party, during the fund raising of the presidential elections campaign season. The issue then of using a bait money to catch offenders is legally right and procedurally acceptable, for some category of highly secretive crimes, which involves the exchanges of large sums of money albeit corruptly and illegally acquired.

The proof of corruption crime entails the evidence of offering and reception of the graft, and this usually requires a picturesque prove of the act, while the operation requires the serial recording of the monetary notes of exchange, which are the type of currencies that is the subject of the sting operation, to guard against probable laundering of the money or the likely disappearance of the vastly sums, as prosecution of monetary crimes requires the tendering of the exchanged amount as evidence of culpability and the physical presentation of the original medium of exchange as a proof of corrupt intent.

The question whether it is morally right for institutions of state to engage in deception, as the agents of government or individuals acting at their behest, to participate in the sting operation, is moot question. It is enough to understand that as in this situation, they would have done so under false pretense, because they acted as untruthful partner in presenting themselves as willing accomplice to a crime, while in actual fact they are merely presenting a façade to aid in the course of criminal investigation. Indeed, when a similar sting operation was performed by the United Kingdom’s Sunday Times with the full cooperation of the London Metropolitan Police, Nigerians did not find it as obnoxious in the case of the entrapment of Dr. Amos Adamu in a corruption quandary, in fact a considerable number of my countrymen were quick to condemn the much reviled sports administrator as guilty, as they are wont to say: who doesn’t know the antecedent of the infamous COJA boss. 

Indeed back in the month of April, Mr. Farouk Lawan had raised an alarm over the attempt to compromise his committee’s investigation, a claim he repeated recently in an interview with Mr. Will Ross of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The issues in contention, though, was if it was rationally possible for an individual to have reacted the way he did, when in fact a grave and damaging threat was being made against persons performing their legally sanctioned duty? The legislator inferred earlier and even stated recently; “Given the desperation of Mr. Otedola, handling the matter in a firm and diplomatic manner is necessary, as he has made some veiled threats which put me and some members of the committee in a delicate situation.”

Surely, everyone in Nigeria knows that an attempt at obstructing the course of legislative investigation is akin to preventing an officer of the law from performing his or her legally sanctioned responsibilities. As such, a well informed citizen of the caliber of the Honourable member would surely know that threats, as well as influence peddling, are criminal issues that require earnest reporting and not diplomatic handling.

Fortunately for them but unfortunately for Nigeria, handling issues within the family is the detestable standard operating practice of the ruling party since the beginning of the current republic, as against the tackling of attempted felonies through the impartial institutions of law enforcement, who had sworn adherence to the application of the rule of law. Thus when former President Olusegun Obasanjo learnt of the rigging activities of his adviser on personal matters, all he did was to harshly unbraid him, before walking him off his executive grace. When the former speaker of the House of Representatives was caught forging his certificate, his punishment was a bout of tears at the sanctuary of the green chamber.

Indeed despite the convenient bluster in front of the cameras, the much celebrated Farouk Lawan never saw his duty as indicting people, for you cannot legislatively prosecute an individual in daylight, while at the same time maintaining a cozy relationship with him at the nightfall, and as the president had stated at the Presidential Villa during his manufactured altercation with Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, the doctrine of separation of power should never came between the collaborative vision of the People Democratic Party members.


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