By Ismail Auwal
Palpable tension is reportedly building among the supporters of Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja sentenced Farouk Lawan, a former member of the House of Representatives, to seven years imprisonment for receiving $500,000 bribe while serving as the chairman of the House ad-hoc committee investigating the fraud around fuel subsidy in 2012.
The bubble burst on the alleged shady deal involving the governor when the publisher of the Daily Nigerian, an online newspaper, Jaafar Jaafar, had set tongues wagging by publishing a video showing the state chief executive, Ganduje, stuffing dollars in his “babbar riga”.
In the series of video clips, Governor Ganduje was seen collecting bundles of crisp dollar bills believed to be kickback from contractors engaged to handle various projects in Kano State.
The Kano State House of Assembly stepped in to unravel the weighty allegation; and, while investigating the matter, invited Jaafar (the publisher), to appear before a panel investigating the authenticity of Ganduje bribe-taking video clips published by the online newspaper.
He appeared before the investigative committee and provided more details about the video as the lawmakers sought to unravel the truth behind the video, which had gone viral. According to Jaafar, a contractor complained to him that the governor had been receiving from contractors kickbacks ranging from 15 to 25 percent, for every project executed in the state.
Jaafar explained, “We then agreed to plant spy cameras on his kaftan lapel so that he can capture the brazen act in hard evidence. He captured at least 15 clips, nine of which fully showed the governor’s face, body, and hands collecting bundles of dollars.
“Before DAILY NIGERIAN publishes stories, pictures or videos on its website the editors subject them to rigors of verification to establish their authenticity or otherwise. In the case of the video clips in question, our in-house technical expert, the editor-in-chief and editorial adviser certified that the videos were original and not doctored contents.”
The then Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, after pressure from state civil society organisations, responded to a curious and concerned Nigerian lawyer studying in the UK, Audu Bulama Bukarti.
“The Ganduje video is one of the reasons I am here; I am working on it here (in London). We are doing forensic analysis of the videos. I don’t have to investigate on the pages of newspaper,” Magu replied.
The EFCC is yet to disclose the findings of the said forensic analysis, three whole years after the claim.
It is noteworthy that experts from Amnesty International Nigeria, the BBC, and PREMIUM TIMES have certified the videos to be authentic.
However, Mr Jaafar has fled the country to the United Kingdom over alleged threats to his life about a month after Kano State Governor, Ganduje, stated that those .behind a video of him collecting bribe would be brought to shame.
Anyhow, supporters of the governor believe and are worried that Ganduje is merely buying time as the destiny that has befallen Lawan awaits him at the finish-line of his second tenure.
The fear intensifies as the proof presented before the judge that examined and convicted Lawan was essentially a video recording showing the former House of Representatives committee chairman grabbing $500,000 in 2012. In harmony with the prosecution’s assertion, the honorable court determined that the lawmaker took the bribe to remove Mr Femi Otedola’s oil company, Zenon Oil and Gas, from the list of firms indicted for fraud in the fuel subsidy regime.
Thus, the trial judge, Justice Angela Otaluka, found Farouk Lawan guilty on all three counts charge of corruption and bribery leveled against him.