His exact words were:
“I wish to categorically deny that I or any member of the committee demanded and received any bribe from anybody in connection with the fuel subsidy probe and I believe. this is evident from the thorough and indepth manner the investigation was carried out and the all encompassing recommendations produced therefrom as approved by the whole House.”
However, barely a day after that statement from Hon. Farouk Lawan denying allegations that he demanded and recieved a $600,000 bribe from an oil marketer, the Punch has uncovered documents showing that the chairman of the House of Reps adhoc committee on fuel subsidy did take the bribes from Femi Otedola of Zenon Oil, in hopes of exposing him.
In reports published on Monday by Thisday newspapers, Otedola made serious claims alleging that Lawan had demanded $3 million in bribes to keep Zenon Oil out of its final report on the fuel subsidy probe, which exposed how corrupt elements in the oil sector robbed the nation of N1.7 trillion.
Otedola claimed he paid two installments of $250,000 to Lawan and an additional $120,000 to Committee secretary, Boniface Emenalo. However, the Zenon Oil boss said he was working with security operatives in a sting operation to expose corruption within the committee. He further claimed to have video evidence of the seedy transaction, which he obtained using a spy camera pen he got from the security operatives.
I spy, you spy, we all spy
As more details of the bribery scandal emerge, however, it would appear that Otedola wasn’t the only one working under cover. Correspondence documents obtained by the Punch revealed that Farouk and Emenalo had let Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, in on the bribery “attempt”.
According to the report, the duo also also corresponded with the House Committee chairman on Drugs/Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Adams Jagaba, about the bribes.
The documents indicate that Lawan forwarded the bribes to Jagaba, sending correspondence that read: “Attached (to the letter) is the sum of five hundred thousand dollars only offered to me with another promise of two million, five hundred thousand dollars.”
Emenalo, said to have received $100,000, reportedly wrote a letter to Lawan saying, “I wish to inform you that I was on his invitation, at the residence of their Chairman, Mr. Femi Otedola, in Maitama (Aso Drive) this morning and he offered me the sum of one hundred thousand US dollars in two bundles of $50,000 each. The money is herewith forwarded as evidence.”
The Punch further reported that another letter, written by the IG of police and signed by Commissioner of Police, Special Task Force, Ali Amodu, had directed a “discreet investigation into the matter”.
Both Jagaba and the Police have declined to comment on the matter.
Lawan’s hesitation with evidence
According to reports, Lawan received the first $250,000 bribe on Saturday, 21 April and the second on Monday, 23 April, a day before the House met to deliberate the contents of the probe.
However, the adhoc Committee Chairman hesitated in coming forward with the evidence of bribery, saying he didn’t want the success of the report overshadowed by allegations of bribery and corruption.
“I had considered bringing this issue as a matter of privilege on the floor of the House later today (April 24), but I am concerned that the controversy it will generate will dwarf the contents of the report, which needs public attention so that necessary reforms in the sector could be affected,” Lawan said in another letter.
Lawan also said veiled threats issued by an angry Otedola gave him pause as he feared what harm might be done to him and other members of the House.
However, initial allegations of a bribery scandal made public by the online press, Lawan’s firm denial in a press statement on Sunday and Otedola’s follow up claims in an exclusive Thisday interview on Monday, the probe report once lauded by the Nigerian public now lacks credibility.
Spokesman for the House Zakari Mohammed had, in a press statement on Saturday, urged the executive to remain firm in implementing the report and its recommendations despite the allegations, asking that the bribery scandal not be used as an excuse to pardon top officials and oil marketers indicted in the probe report.
Damaging video footage
The caught on camera bribery transaction does a lot to damage the reliability of the probe report. Otedola, as part of his alleged sting operation, said he conceded to Lawan’s demands for $3 million in bribes to keep him off the list of fraudulent oil marketers. He claims he was given marked bills by security operatives and the entire sordid affair was caught on spy cam.
The incriminating footage of Lawan, a high ranking member of the House, accepting the bribes has been seen by President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President David Mark and House Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.
According to a Premium Times report, the video clip has also been viewed by one non-government figure, Nobel laureate and activist Wole Soyinka.
Source who spoke to the Premium Times reported that Soyinka, who once vowed to lead mass protests if the government failed to prosecute and punish the guilty parties indicted in the report, was shocked speechless by what he saw.