It is further evidence that a bribery transaction did occur, but is it enough to put convict either the lawmaker or the oil magnate?
This very telling audio recording obtained by national news station, Channels Television, is reportedly a part of the conversation between the suspended Hon. Farouk Lawan and Zenon Oil chairman, Mr. Femi Otedola as regards the $3 million bribery scandal currently rocking the House of Representatives.
From what we hear in the audio recording of the incriminating phone conversation, this call happened after the payment of an initial $500,000 to Lawan. Now the pair are talking about how best to relay the remainder of the bribe money, a whopping $2.5 million.
“You’ll take it to your house?” we hear Lawan ask.
“No. I don’t want to bring it to my house, it’s a lot of money,” we hear a voice, purportedly Otedola’s, saying.
Lawan mulls that over for a bit before asking to ascertain the location of the money. Otedola confirms that the remainder of the $3 million bribe, which he later alleged Lawan had demanded from him, was at an airport.
The Kano state lawmaker and former chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy probe, has repeatedly denied the allegations that he demanded the bribes, saying instead that Otedola had offered it to him in order to clear his oil firm, Zenon Petroleum and Gas, from the list of oil firms indicted of fraud.
Lawan, in the audio recordings, explains that he is rushing off to Chambers and would not make it to the airport to collect the money. “I have a lot of things to do myself,” Lawan says, but he gives the number of another man, “TJ”, who could make the trip to collect.
“So, I’ll give him the balance, that’s 2.5 million dollars right?” Otedola asks.
“That’s right,” comes Lawan’s reply. “Hold on, just hold on, I’m calling him to make sure his number is on…” the lawmaker’s sentence trails off.
While this phone conversation is proof that a bribery transaction did happen between Lawan and Otedola, the question remains: who instigated it?
Did Lawan demand for the $3 million in bribe as Otedola claims, or did he accept Otedola’s offer of a bribe only to expose him, as the lawmaker and his legal team have claimed.
The Special Task Force unit investigating the allegations have so far been unable to find the key evidence to make their case against Lawan, the $620,000 already in his possession.
Otedola says he made two payments of $250,000 to Lawan and another $120,000 to committee clerk, Boniface Emenalo, totalling $620,000, which Lawan claims he handed over to a third party, Hon. Adams Jagaba.
Jagaba has denied, “categorically”, having custody of the money and has refused to honour police invitation to come in for questioning. While the audio recording is damning evidence, it still leaves questions unanswered. For instance: who is PJ and did he ever make it to the airport to collect the remainder $2.5 million?