The Nigerian Police has arrested Farouk Lawan in connection to the investigations of a $3 million bribery scandal currently rocking the House of Representatives.The chairman of the House of Reps’ adhoc committee tasked with the fuel subsidy management probe has been accused of demanding and receiving bribes from an oil marketer in order to influence the final report in its favor.
According to Sahara Reporters, the embattled Lawan is now in police custody.
Police on Wednesday had reportedly declared Lawan wanted after he failed to honor a police invitation on Tuesday.
His accuser, Femi Otedola, chairman of Zenon Oil Petroleum and Gas, voluntarily appeared before police on Tuesday, claiming “I have nothing to hide”.
Otedola in an exclusive interview with Thisday newspapers confirmed bribery allegations leveled against Lawan, at the time seen as mere rumors and refuted by Lawan himself in a press statement.
The Zenon Oil boss’ tell-all interview with Thisday, however, proved hard to dismiss. Otedola revealed to the newspaper that Lawan had demanded $3 million in bribes in order to leave Zenon Oil out of the list of fraudulent oil marketers.According to Otedola, Lawan hinted that other oil marketers were “playing ball”. The oil business magnate admitted to having paid $500,000 in bribes to Lawan, in two separate installments of $250,000. He also said he paid secretary of the Committee, Hon. Boniface Emenalo, $120,000 in bribes as well.
However, Otedola threw in another twist when he said his paying the bribes was all part of an elaborate sting operation led by operatives of the State Security Service, who gave the marked bills to pay the bribes and a spy camera with which to record the illegal transaction.
Dubbed as the cash for clearance scandal, the bribery allegations not only discredit the lauded probe report, which indicted government officials and oil industry execs in a huge N1.7 fuel subsidy fraud, but it has done extensive and perhaps irreparable damage to Lawan’s reputation.
The Punch in a recent report, however, claimed it was in the possession of letters proving Lawan had taken Otedola’s dollars to expose him and had not demanded for them, but neither the police official nor the lawmaker said to have been working with Lawan in that operation have come forward to defend the embattled rep.
The Vanguard further reported that efforts by the State Security Service to retrieve the bribes have failed, with some among the Special Task Force speculating that the cash evidence might have been destroyed.
Meanwhile evidence against the lawmaker is mounting.
Police sources say they have call logs establishing contact between Otedola and Lawan, which they believe were from discussions the two had about the details of the bribery transaction. They also have the incriminating video evidence showing Lawan taking the bribes from Otedola at the oil magnate’s home at 4 a.m.
Further damaging the credibility of the probe and effectiveness of the House of Representatives, more allegations of bribery have surfaced as other marketers reveal that lawmakers on the committee extorted money from them as well.
A police source told the Vanguard: “They (Marketers) were intimidated, threatened and coerced into parting with various sums of pounds, dollars and naira notes out of fear of attack on their property and investments by Nigerians who were angry over the subsidy removal and payment to a few that had been milking the country dry.
“It was as a result of our investigation into the discussions that transpired between Otedola and Farouk Lawan that we stumbled on other transactions with other oil marketers. The Otedola case was like the straw that broke the camel’s back because he told them he cannot be intimidated into joining others to bribe his way out of an offence he did not commit”.
Police sources say they will further investigate claims other bribes if Lawan does not offer up the information himself.
Meanwhile, the House of Reps are set to reconvene for an emergency session on Friday to further investigate the allegations.