The dark tale involving Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, daughter of the immediate past president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is quite disturbing. The senator is embroiled in a contract scandal that has the twin potential of stalling her rising political profile and advancing another justification – for many Nigerians – that the Obasanjo regime was a nest of corruption. The latter would indeed be more ironic and scandalous because that government trumpeted anti-corruption as its battle cry.
The story is that Obasanjo-Bello was involved in a contract deal with an Austrian company, M. Schneider, which bidded for a job in the power sector through a Nigerian company, Akiya Nigeria Limited, in which the senator is said to have substantial interest.
The contract sum, it is said, was worth N8.3 billion. Along the line, however, the relationship went soar and M. Schneider has now petitioned all relevant anti-corruption agencies including the presidency over what it called “fraudulent, corrupt and criminal nature involving Senator (Mrs.) Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello (alias Mrs. Damilola Akinlawo)”.
The Senator is alleged to have presented herself fraudulently as Mrs. Damilola Akinlawo while entering into a contractual agreement with the Austrian company to float Akiya Nigeria Limited, which later bidded for the said contract in the power projects embarked upon by Olusegun Obasanjo (her father’s) government. At this time, she was serving as the Commissioner of Health in the Ogun State government. She was also said to have travelled to Austria to sign the Memorandum of Understanding and Joint Venture Agreement with M. Schneider as a representative of her company, Akiya Nigeria Limited, which was awarded 10 percent shares and 10 percent commission.
In the petition to the anti-corruption agencies, M. Schneider alleged that Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello concealed her identity and presented herself as Mrs. Damilola Akinlawo with the “sole consideration of shielding her father… from being perceived as having breached relevant laws in the award of power projects directly to his daughter.” The Austrian company, therefore, pleaded with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant agencies to investigate the case so they could ascertain whether the lady broke Nigerian laws by acting either for herself or on behalf of her father.
These are indeed grave allegations. We are particularly disturbed because the issue of official corruption and corruption involving public officials have become a major problem to Nigerians, just as they have continued to denigrate the country within the international community.
Very recently, the whole country erupted with the Wilbros bribe scandal and while that was still swirling, the Siemens edition broke out. The country is still smarting from these and now the Iyabo Obasanjo’s own has tumbled in. This is exhausting for a country. The latest case is particularly scandalous and we urge all those agencies that have been petitioned not to sleep on it. This should be a test case and an inroad into the alleged cauldron of corruption that was the Obasanjo government.
The Action Congress (AC) has also added another dimension to the scandal. The party is alleging that Iyabo is also linked with the contract award for the refurbishment of teaching hospitals in the country. She is said to have business partnership with one Prince Albert Awofisayo, chairman of Vermed Engineering, the company that got the N27 billion contract to refurbish 17 teaching hospitals under her father’s administration. The Presidency was in charge of the award of the refurbishment contracts.
Here, we are talking about then a serving commissioner and by virtue of that position, she was forbidden by the country’s Codes of Conduct for Public Officers from what she is being accused of. She is also alleged to have been given a Toyota cer (a jeep) as gratification by the same Prince Albert Awofisayo along the line.
The Fifth Schedule, Sections 1, 6 (2) and 13 of the 1999 is explicit on this matter. Section 1 says that: “ A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities, ” while 6(2) provides that “…the receipt by a public officer of any gift or benefits from commercial firms, business enterprises or persons who have contracts with government shall be presumed to have been in contravention of the said sub paragraph…”
We therefore urge the anti-corruption agencies to do all that is necessary in this matter in the interest of the country.
We acknowledge the complexities and sensitivity of this case and for which reasons the agencies must be diligent and sincere in investigating and disposing of it. These allegations are weighty and destructive both to the individuals concerned and to the country. We insist that these agencies must go the whole hog and let the law of the land take its course.