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Monday, March 4, 2024

Onyeriri: The Reincarnation Of Farouk Lawan – By Auwal Usman



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The arms fund scandal has the entire nation in a twist. The true beneficiaries of the scam are getting away. Those the state is after are merely key players in a labyrinth whose true extent we may never fully grasp. The real beneficiaries of the scam are now better entrenched and in position to continue ripping the nation off.

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Former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) has been docked alongside others who partook in disbursement of the over $2 billion meant for purchasing arms to beat the Boko Haram insurgency. He remains innocent until proven guilty or convicted by a competent court.

But there are those who stand indicted and thus guilty even before they are arrested or arraigned before a court. If Nigerians fail to beam the searchlight on this group of people, they will not only escape justice but they will remain in position to do more damage. The Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Currency, Jones Onyeriri leads the pack of those Nigerians should escort to the gallows for their roles in this rape of the nation’s treasury. Onyeriri through his committee had oversight of the sector that laundered the arms money. He however failed to act or he was complicit in the scam.

If the House Committee on Banking and Currency had carried out proper oversight function it would or should have been alerted to the volume of money leaving the national coffers. There are alerts systems that allows those with oversight keep up to date with what is happening to the nation’s funds. So there is no way Onyeriri can claim he was ignorant of the dealings. He chaired the same committee during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure when the funds were moved. Was his silence the purchase of party – PDP – loyalty? Or was his silence caused by his mouth and pocket being stuffed full with his share of the loot? Whichever of the two he answers the affirmative to he has betrayed the trust Nigerians and there is a price to pay.

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Before Onyeriri there was Farouk Lawan, who turned an investigation into the subsidy scam into his personal cash cow. Farouk Lawan was on national assignment to bring integrity to the sleazy affairs of fraudulent subsidy payments but he instead became a turncoat. He was caught, with digital proof of him, stuffing the folds of his babanriga and later his cap with wads of crispy dollars. Instead of exercising oversight over Nigeria’s Banking and Currency, Onyeriri played a Farouk Lawan on us all.

This House of Representatives member, who was earlier this year photographed in a ritual pose, is known to have choice properties in the upscale neighbourhoods of the nation’s capital. Onyeriri also has multimillion naira assets spread across the major cities in Nigeria. There is no way even the outrageous pay of a federal lawmaker would afford these mind boggling assets. Many of the assets were reportedly acquired at about the same time as the money meant for arms was fraudulently shared.

His personal staff can further attest to how he further specializes in using his position to harass DFIs to collect money from them. The bribe allows him to look the other way in the course of his committee’s non-existing oversight functions.

The House of Representatives Speaker, Right Honorable  Yakubu Dogara must now act to save the integrity of the institution. There are enough facts and evidence to sack Onyeriri as the committee chair. He is no longer suitable for the position on account of the weighty allegations against him. The Speaker must dissolve that committee as presently constituted and also appoint more responsible persons to man its leadership.

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must also step in with other anti-graft agencies. They must investigate the roles and involvement of the House Committee on Banking and Currency in the arms-gate scandal. The committee should have flagged the diversion of national funds but failed to do so. There must have been inducement that made its chairman and members to keep quiet.
Nigerians have cause to worry. The same man who failed to stop or flag the diversion billions of naira is back again in the saddle of the committee that failed to exercise oversight. The Change Agenda and anti-corruption fight will suffer if Jones Onyeriri remains in the saddle.  He must be made to account for the failing that allowed the nation to lose that much money without him raising a finger or even uttering the smallest whimper.

So let us go after the key players in the arms-gate scandal with all the energy we have got. But let us also bring into reckoning those who made the crime possible either by actively partaking in the sharing of the loot or by passively allowing it to happen for whatever reason.  While we are it, let us continually remind ourselves that this failing caused avoidable loss of lives.

Usman, a close observer of National Assembly matters, writes from Abuja

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