I rejected Adenuga's bribe -El-Rufai
Our country has come to a sorry pass, where shame and contrition have disappeared. In which other clime can a man under oath before a Senate Committee, admit receiving a bribe, yet expect no immediate retribution? This sums up Mallam Nasir El Rufai's response to the testimony of Charles Osuji, a former staff of the BPE, at the Senate hearings on privatisation. As Osuji testified, he collected a bribe from Mike Adenuga, and El-Rufai never sought or collected bribe from anyone either in his twenty years of professional practice or in a decade of public service. Osuji went on a frolic of his own, and collected the money, and then told El-Rufai about it. El-Rufai rejected the bribe and ensured Osuji was punished for collecting it. That was the proper thing to do, and it was done.
Mike Adenuga offered the highest price for the National Oil and Chemical Company (NOLCHEM) when it was being privatised, and the BPE under El-Rufai's leadership recommended his as the winning bid. El-Rufai-led BPE maintained the integrity of the bid process despite intense pressures from the political leadership of Nigeria at the time and at least one foreign government.
The bidders for NOLCHEM were: Engen of South Africa, which was the former Exxon South Africa, Mike Adenuga of Consolidated Oil, Chief Igweh, the owner of Bolingo Hotels, Shell BV and a consortium led by Mr. Kola Abiola. As the bids were being evaluated, President Obasanjo informed El-Rufai that Shell's management had come to him complaining that BPE had frustrated their bid for NOLCHEM. Thabo Mbeki, then South African President, had also called Obasanjo to press Engen's case.
As the bid process unfolded, Vice-President Abubakar Atiku also told El Rufai that a former president and a notable traditional ruler had asked him to intervene for Mike Adenuga's Consolidated Oil. The firm response from the BPE was that only the highest bid price could win. At the end, Adenuga submitted the highest bid of something like N36 per share, and he won. Engen offered N28, while Bolingo's bid was for N34.
Shortly after Adenuga's winning bid was announced, Osuji came to inform El Rufai that he had been asked by Adenuga to give him N25 million and US $100,000 as 'a gift' in gratitude for selling NOLCHEM to him. El Rufai asked Osuji to return the money, and the latter insinuated that Adenuga had consulted the Vice President about the bribe. El Rufai brought this to the attention of the Vice President who not only denied any involvement but agreed that Osuji's conduct should earn him a sack from the BPE job. Osuji was then queried and he failed to respond to the query in time.
As a Deputy-Director, the approval of the National Council for Privatisation (NCP) was required to terminate Osuji's appointment, and it was granted by the Vice President. At the next meeting of the NCP, members of Council, particularly Late Bola Ige, then Attorney-General and Joseph Sanusi, then Governor of the Central Bank made the case for the conversion of Osuji's termination to outright dismissal, and prosecution under the ICPC Act. The file must still be in the Federal Ministry of Justice. And there is no better time to complete this
The idea that things cannot be done according to due process and in a fair manner is unfortunate, but it lingers because even people who win a fair process were always prepared to subvert and rig it. Osuji is a liar and perjurer. It is time the law takes it own course, this once.
Mallam El-Rufai is as always proud that he kept his integrity and resisted pressure to bend the rules for anyone while in public service. He challenges anyone with any evidence to the contrary to make such public.