CONTRARY to his insistence on Sunday that he did not meet with or receive any bribe from anybody, documents in possession of The PUNCH showed that Chairman of the House of Representatives probe panel on fuel subsidy mismanagement, Farouk Lawal, indeed accepted $500,000 from billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola.
Clerk of the committee, Boniface Emenalo, also received $100,000 from the businessman.
The sums added up to the $600,000 bribery scandal rocking the House committee which recently exposed how some subsidy thieves robbed the nation of whopping N1.7trn.
Farouk and Emenalo, as the documents, mostly correspondence, indicated, however let in the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, into the “attempt” by Otedola to bribe them.
Also, there were indications in the correspondence that Lawan intimated the House committee chairman on Drugs/Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Adams Jagaba.
In one of the documents sourced by our correspondents in Abuja on Monday, Lawan, in a letter to Jagaba, wrote, “Attached (to the letter) is the sum of five hundred thousand dollars only offered to me with another promise of two million, five hundred thousand dollars.”
Another letter written by Emenalo to Lawan read, “I wish to inform you that I was on his invitation, at the residence of their Chairman, Mr. Femi Otedola, in Maitama (Aso Drive) this morning and he offered me the sum of one hundred thousand US dollars in two bundles of $50,000 each. The money is herewith forwarded as evidence.”
Another letter, reference number,CR:3000/IGP.SEC/STF/FHQ/ABJ/VOL 2/309 indicated that the IG directed “a discreet investigation into the matter.” The letter was signed by Commissioner of Police, Special Task Force, Ali Amodu.
Both Jagaba and the police on Monday declined comments on their involvement in the matter.
While Jagaba told our correspondent that he could not comment on the matter on the telephone, spokesman for the police, Frank Mba, said he had yet to get an update on the probe.
“I was unable to reach CP Ali Amodu who is handling the investigation but I will get back to you once I get an update on the matter,” he said on the telephone on Monday.
Obasanjo, Mark view video
The fresh insight into the bribery scandal came as The PUNCH learnt on Monday how the video recording of the transaction between Lawan and Otedola had been shown to President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President David Mark and House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal.
Otedola had revealed in an interview with THIS DAY newspaper how he involved the security agents to supervise Lawan’s persistent demand for a bribe from him. He also narrated how he released a total sum of $620,000 to Lawan and Emenalo in three tranches, all monitored and recorded by the security agents.
The ad hoc committee chairman said in another letter that he did not raise the issue of Otedola’s pressure on him on the floor of the House because it would overshadow the essence of the fuel subsidy probe.
Lawan stated in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The PUNCH on Monday that, “I had considered bringing this issue as a matter of privilege on the floor of the House later today (April 24), but I am concerned that the controversy it will generate will dwarf the contents of the report, which needs public attention so that necessary reforms in the sector could be affected.”
The ad hoc committee chairman added that Otedola issued veiled verbal threats against him.
He said, “Given the desperation of Mr. Otedola, handling this matter, in a firm but diplomatic manner is necessary as he has also made some veiled threats which put me and members of the committee in a delicate situation.”
The ad hoc committee chairman also disclosed that the clerk of the committee, Emenalo, had in a letter written to him on April 24, 2012, said Otedola offered him $100,000.
Lawan also stated that the police were aware of the offer of a bribe as the Acting Inspector-General in a letter dated, May 9, 2012, directed the task force on investigation to meet him.
Lawan explained that in a letter dated May 31, 2012, he told the IGP that the matter (bribe offer) had been referred to the relevant committee of the House for legislative action.
He said that he promised that the House would inform him about the outcome of the legislative action.
According to him, the IGP in a letter to the Speaker of the House, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, dated June 4, 2012, stated that a detailed criminal investigation had been ordered into the matter.
In the letter titled, “Investigation activities: Letter of invitation in a case of criminal conspiracy and attempt to pervert the course of justice by offering gratification,” the office of the IGP stated that “the Inspector General of Police has directed a detailed criminal investigation into the matter.”
Calls for investigation
The President of the Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, has however called on the EFCC to investigate the bribery allegation against Lawan.
Okei-Odumakin, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Monday berated the EFCC for not prosecuting those indicted by the committee.
She said that while the anti-graft agency had found it convenient to prosecute the Chairman of the House Committee on the Capital Market, it had found it difficult to prosecute oil thieves.
The CD president said, “The EFCC is prosecuting Hembe with N600,000 estacode, yet it has not done anything to the subsidy thieves who stole the country broke.
“If there is any allegation, it should be investigated. The EFCC should work rather than play media shield.”
Also, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre on Monday called for probe of the bribery scandal.
This is contained in a statement issued in Abuja and signed by executive director of CISLAC, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim.
The statement called on the National Assembly and the executive arm of government “not to let the current scandal serve as a straw to bury the probe report under the carpet”.
It advised the leadership of the House to urgently institute a thorough investigation into the alleged bribery and involve anti-graft agencies to also probe the circumstances and reality of all claims.
“Those indicted by the report may go to their wits’ end in order to rubbish an exercise that is widely applauded by Nigerians in view of the nasty dealings it uncovered”, CISLAC said.
A lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay, also on Monday expressed shock over the bribery allegation levelled against Lawan.
Sagay, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Monday said the development was saddening, describing it as a tragedy which spelled doom for the future of Nigeria.
The Save Nigeria Group asked security operatives to invite both Otedola and Lawan for interrogation.
Spokesman for the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said such an invitation was necessary to clear the air about the allegation that Lawan collected $600,000 bribe from the oil marketer.
Odumakin said if it was ascertained that money actually changed hands, the giver and the taker must be punished.
He, however, advised Nigerians not to allow the issue to distract them from demanding the prosecution of the subsidy thieves.
Odumakin said, “Both Otedola and Lawan should be invited by security agencies to ascertain the veracity of this allegation. If it is true that money changed hands, the giver and the taker must be punished.
Nigerians must not allow this to distract them from the demand for the prosecution of the subsidy thieves which this latest video production by the Presidency clearly wants to achieve.”
Meanwhile, our correspondents learnt on Monday that the EFCC was planning to use Otedola as a prosecution witness against Lawan.
Sources within the commission said though Otedola had not been officially queried over the role he played in the bribery saga, it was said that since he carried the security agencies along, he might be used to nail the lawmakers.
“Yes, we may use Otedola as a prosecuting witness in the case. But we are still carrying out our discreet investigation. When that has been sufficiently done, then we will swing into action,” the source added.