Just late April, which is less than two months ago, the House of Representatives was being hailed as a good example of how the Legislature should be a check on the excesses of the Executive. At the time, the Ad Hoc Committee set up by the lower chamber to probe the fuel subsidy saga was about resting its enquiries. The whole probe drama was televised live, and the shocking revelations provided much food for thought for Nigerians. Some N1.7 trillion is believed to have been stolen in the course of the subsidy regime for one year. The star of the subsidy probe was Farouk Lawan, chairman of the committee. This is his 13th year in the House and he has created for himself the image of the enfant terrible, who does not suffer fools gladly. Going by his conduct in the House since 1999, many Nigerians would vote him as one of the few patriots in the House of Representatives. And he still lived up to that billing publicly in this latest assignment.
Alas, that larger than life image of petite-sized Lawan is about to crumble. Money, the love of which is the root of all evil, has become his albatross. Femi Otedola, chairman of Zenon Oil, has accused Lawan of demanding a $3 million bribe in order for his company to be excluded from the list of companies indicted by Lawan’s committee. Otedola arranged in what he termed a “sting operation” to pay Lawan $620,000. This scandal is threatening to render useless the supposedly excellent job the Lawan committee did in respect of the fuel subsidy probe.
The Aminu Tambuwal-led House of Representatives is very much embarrassed by the whole episode. All the members endorsed the report of Lawan’s committee. The latest development has put a question mark on that report. And many of the legislators, like millions of Nigerians, feel greatly betrayed by Lawan’s action. Anayochukwu Agbo, senior associate editor, who anchored many of the stories the magazine did on the fuel subsidy saga, handled the special report on the latest scandal in the House, which reared its head when Nigerians were about concluding that the legislators have started treading the path of probity.
However, the above story is just one of the appetisers for the week. On Monday, June 14, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan was in Obajana, Kogi State, to commission the third plant of the Obajana Cement Factory, which is owned by Aliko Dangote, president of the Dangote Group. With the latest feat, Obajana will now produce 10.25 million tonnes of cement per annum. Only last February, Jonathan was in Ibese, Ogun State, to commission the six-million-tonne per annum cement plant also owned by Dangote. He also owns the Benue Cement Company in Gboko and is planning new plants not only in Nigeria but other parts of Africa. However, cement manufacturing is just one of the many areas Dangote has invested in. The Group is into salt, sugar and noodle business. Today, it employs about 20,000 Nigerians. And the president of the Group never stops telling whoever would listen that Nigeria has the best climate to invest in.
Jonathan recognised his patriotism last year when he gave him the second highest honour in the land, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON. Salif Atojoko, editor, BROAD STREET Journal, was in Obajana for the commissioning. After the Editorial Board listened to his brief on Dangote’s latest giant stride, he was asked to use Obajana as a peg to examine the impactful forays Aliko Dangote is making in the business world. And it is a cover story that will make your week tick.