Police investigators have met a dead end in their search for the $620,000 at the center of the bribery scandal involving Chairman of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on fuel subsidy, Mr. Farouk Lawan.Lawan, who is facing accusations of demanding and receiving bribes from the Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas, Mr. Femi Otedola, is still undergoing police interrogation.
The suspended lawmaker is expected to appear every 48 hours before the Special Task Force investigative committee, which is one of the conditions of his bail agreement.
The other condition is that he turn in the bribes both he and Committee secretary, Boniface Emenalo, collected from Mr. Otedola.
Otedola, who claims to have been working in a sting operation, alleges that he paid the bribes – $500,000 to Lawan and $120,000 to Emenalo – using marked bills given to him by the State Security Service.
There were speculations last week that $10,000 of the bribery bills were found in Lawan’s Apo residence, but those rumors remain unsubstantiated by police.
Lawan, who says he only took Otedola’s dollars to expose him, claimed he gave the bribes to Hon. Adams Jagaba, a colleague and the chairman of the Narcotics committee.
However, Jagaba denied having custody of the bribes and has so far ignored summons by the STF to appear for questioning.
The lawmaker, as well as other committee members, were reportedly expected to appear before the police on Wednesday.
Lawan and Emenalo were the only ones present.
Police officials say without the bribe money as evidence, forming a solid case against Lawan will be difficult. Sources have speculated that the lawmaker is stalling to buy time to build his defense.
According to a Vanguard report, the embattled Lawan is delaying on his promise to return the $620,000 in order to give him ample time to assemble “a crack team of lawyers to take on investigators of the Special Task Force and fight his way out.”
Fighting his way out is entirely plausible as the case against the lawmaker is hinged on finding the money Otedola claims to have given him.
Then there is also the matter of the video evidence. Where is it? At the start of the “cash for clearance” saga, Otedola claimed that he had recorded visual evidence of the bribery transaction, which he handed over to the State Security Service.
Top government officials, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and even current President Goodluck Jonathan, were said to have seen the video recording.
Yet, the SSS continues to deny the very existence of key evidence that could put Lawan, the target of their “sting operation” behind bars.
It begs the question: what does the SSS stand to gain by withholding incriminating evidence?