LAGOS — The House of Representatives Committee on Ethics investigating the $3 million cash for clearance scam involving Rep. Farouk Lawan and business mogul, Mr Femi Otedola, has been directed to reverse the decision to hold its hearings in secret.
The directive from the House leadership came as it emerged that the Ethics Committee is to invite the Director General of the State Security Service, SSS, to shed light on the scam.
The decision of the ethics committee to hold its sittings in camera came as a major reversal to the transparency and accountability profile that the Speaker Aminu Tambuwal-led leadership had itself sought to portray in its actions.
The ethics committee which is investigating the alleged bribe offered by Otedola to Lawan to clear his name from the list of indicted beneficiaries of the administration’s subsidy regime got enmeshed in controversy last Tuesday after Otedola insisted that he must be heard in public and not in secret as the committee wanted.
Following the refusal of Otedola to submit to the secret hearing, Chairman of the House Committee on Ethics, Rep. Musa Gambo had described Otedola as “stupid,” saying the businessman abused the committee members in the short period he was with them in the secret session last Tuesday.
Otedola responded the following day, denying that he abused the committee members, insisting that he acted in decorum.
The ethics committee insistence on hearing Otedola in secret, itself, raised controversy in the House last Thursday as some members insisted that the conduct of the ethics committee violated their privileges as it sought to portray the House in a negative image.
A member of the House from Kaduna State, Simon Arabo, had at that sitting, in seeking to condemn the action of the committee on ethics in bringing the House into disrepute said: “What will it cost the committee if Otedola testifies in the open? There is nowhere in the House rules that says that Otedola must be heard in secret.”
House sources disclosed that in a bid to reverse the negative impressions brought by the ethics committee, the House leadership, weekend, directed the committee to reverse its decision and hold its sessions in public.
Sources disclosed last night that the Chief Whip of the House, Isiaka Bawa, had conveyed the decision to the committee.
Similarly, the Director-General of the SSS, Mr. Ita Ekpeyong, is to be invited to brief the Ethics Committee on the Farouk issue.
The SSS reportedly issued the $620,000 allegedly offered by Otedola to Lawan as bribe money.
Lawan has said the money received by him was collected as evidence of the pressure from the oil marketers, while Otedola said that it was marked money to show the dishonesty of the ad-hoc committee.