By: MURPHY GANAGANA
It was a revealing session on Monday as detectives of the police Special Task Force [STF] investigating the $3 million bribery scandal involving Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on fuel subsidy payment, Hon. Farouk Lawan, reportedly watched video clips of how the lawmaker walked into the residence of Chairman of Zenon Petroleum & Gas Limited, Mr. Femi Otedola, and collected $500,000 as part payment of the alleged bribe.
And by Thursday when Lawan eventually turned himself in for interrogation, the police had indeed, reportedly gathered “credible information and evidence” to sustain criminal charges against the embattled lawmaker, who is expected to be arraigned soon.
The video recordings reviewed by the STF operatives also allegedly showed how Secretary of the Ad-hoc Committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, visited Otedola’s Abuja residence some hours after Lawan’s departure and pocketed $120,000. Describing the video clips as stunning, a source close to the team of investigators said available documentary evidence, including call logs that indicated regular contact between Lawan and Otedola, were strong enough to initiate criminal proceedings against the suspects. “We watched the video of how he (Farouk) walked in about 4 a.m. on that day and collected the bribe. Later in the day, secretary of his committee went in and collected $120,000 dollars. They did not know they were being videoed, and we watched the whole thing,” one of the investigators told reporters.
He hinted that though the police spotted some mistakes in the coverage of the exercise by the State Security Services (SSS), the lapses did not affect establishment of a prima facie case against them. “The fact is the SSS covered that operation, and even though they made some mistakes, Farouk did not know the whole place had been wired and that he was being recorded. The evidence is there, and there is no ambiguity about it,” a senior police officer said.
Reporters gathered that the STF operatives probing the bribery scandal were dismayed by Lawan’s grand-standing and failure to honour several invitations to him since commencement of investigation on May 9. Apart from his invitation for interrogation, the police had also requested Lawan to surrender the marked $500,000, which he allegedly collected from Otedola. But the lawmaker had refused on the ground that it was the only proof that he rejected a bribe from the oil magnate.
“It was unfortunate that Farouk refused to honour several letters of invitation sent to him. In the last invitation we sent him, he was expected to report on Thursday, June 7, but he never did. Rather, he wrote a letter to the police that he kept the bribe money, and that the House was legislating on it. What does that mean? “How can you legislate on a criminal offence that was committed by you? Farouk does not have immunity against prosecution, and we are watching. The IGP is being constantly briefed on this matter and at the end of the day, the law will take its course,” a reliable police source said.
Meanwhile, after weeks of engaging the police in a hide and seek game, Lawan on Thursday surrendered himself at the Louis Edet House, Police Force Headquarters, Abuja, where he was grilled for about five hours. By 9 p.m. the team of investigators at the STF led by Commissioner of Police, Ali Ahmodu, told the lawmaker’s counsel, Mr. Israel Olorundare (SAN), and Mr. Sam Ologunorisa (SAN), that he could not be granted bail.
He was subsequently moved to the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) detention facility at Area 10, Garki District, Abuja, alongside Secretary of the Ad-hoc Committee on fuel subsidy payment, Mr. Boniface Emenalo.
Both men were still in custody at the time of filing this