House Ethics Committee Insist on Secret Probe- $3mn Bribe

The House Committee on Ethics and Privileges Wednesday ignored the clamour and apparent pressure on it to conduct its investigations into the $620,000 bribery scandal in the open.

Members of the committee held a closed door session Wednesday where they interrogated some members of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Subsidy Regime. Other members of the subsidy committee are expected to also give their testimonies in camera Thursday.

Our correspondents authoritatively gathered that the Chairman, House Committee on Drugs Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Hon. Adams Jagaba will also be interrogated by the Ethics and Privileges Committee Thursday at a secret session.

He would be facing the panel on allegations that the $620,000 was kept in his custody as evidence.

A source at Wednesday’s meeting disclosed that the committee was not prepared to succumb to external pressure and sentiments on the issue of holding the investigative hearing in the open.

Barring any last minute changes, our source said the committee may round up the investigation by the end of this week.

Jagaba had on Tuesday appeared before detectives of the Special Task Force on the subsidy bribe investigation at the Police Force headquarters where he was quizzed for two hours and released on bail.

He was at the force headquarters on the invitation of the police following the allegation that the $620,000 was in his custody.

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The interrogation took place in camera and details of his testimony were not disclosed to newsmen.

Police sources, however, told newsmen that Jagaba was “treated professionally” and granted bail on self recognition.

“He made a very useful and constructive statement to the police,” our source said.

In a phone interview hours after he was released, Jagaba confirmed that he was grilled for two hours. He however declined to give details of his encounter with the detectives.

“Many people have been calling me but I can’t say anything now. I was there for two hours but I don’t want to be repeating myself so I told all those that have called that I will make a statement tomorrow (Wednesday),” he said.

The embattled former Chairman, Ad-Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Subsidy Regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan, had told the police that the $620,000 he collected from the Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas, Mr. Femi Otedola, was deposited with Jagaba for the purpose of exposing the bribery deal.

Lawan, had in his statement to the police said that he reported the bribery incident and transmitted the marked dollar bills with a letter to Jagaba in his capacity as the chairman, House Committee on Drugs Narcotics and Financial Crimes.

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But the controversy was further compounded the following day when Jagaba formally denied knowledge and possession of the $620,000.

In a letter dated June 19, 2012, addressed to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Jagaba had said that there was never a time Lawan kept the sum of $620,000 or any other exhibits in his possession.

The letter was titled, ‘Re-Investigation Activities: Request for Handing Over of Exhibits in Connection with a Case of Criminal Conspiracy, Taking Gratification to Pervert the Course of Justice’, read: “I wish to categorically and unequivocally state that there was never a time I was in possession of the sum of $620,000 or any other exhibit (in my personal capacity or official capacity as chairman of the House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes) relating to the subject matter of the above investigation.

“I hope this explanation lays to rest once and for all the claims that I or my committee is in possession of the sum $620,000 purportedly given as bribe to the Ad-hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Fuel Subsidy Regime.”

Jagaba’s letter was in response to a letter from Tambuwal directing Jagaba to react to the claim by Lawan that he (Jagaba) was in possession of the exhibit.

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Tambuwal’s letter, dated June 18, 2012 and signed by his special adviser on Legal and Legislative Matters, Hon. Chille Igbawa, was in response to a letter from the police asking for the reaction of the speaker to the bribery scam.

In the letter from the police, Mr. Ali Amodu, a Commissioner of Police in charge of the Special Task Force on Subsidy Bribe Investigation, had requested Tambuwal to supply information on the $620,000 exhibit as well as any other material evidence that may be of use to the investigation.

Indications emerged last week that the police may issue a warrant of arrest for Jagaba over his alleged refusal to submit himself for questioning on the bribery saga.

The threat to arrest Jagaba came following Lawan’s insistence that the money he collected from Otedola was in Jagaba’s custody.

Police sources told newsmen that Lawan had during his last visit to the force headquarters restated his earlier claim that he forwarded the money to Jagaba when he reported the bribery incident to the House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes.

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