Subsidy panel members fret over $3m bribery allegation

Fear of arrest has gripped members of the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of Subsidy Regime.

Investigations  revealed that the members were worried by the allegation that the Chairman, Mr. Farouk Lawan, negotiated a $3m bribe with an oil businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola.

Otedola had opened up how, in a sting operation coordinated by the State Security Service, he allegedly delivered the part payment of $500,000 to Lawan.

He also claimed that another $120,000 was given to the Clerk to the committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, bringing the total part payment to $620,000.

“These latest revelations have sealed the hope of members that the allegations will be without proof,” a source close to the committee confided in The PUNCH in Abuja on Monday.

Findings showed that besides Lawan, the seven other members of the panel were said to be worried that at any moment, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission might knock on their doors.

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A member who begged not to be named, said, “For the first time in my life, I may be called by the EFCC to account for what I don’t know.

“The way things have turned out, it is obvious that the EFCC will wade in now.

“The matter is already a security issue, given the boldness of Otedola in the manner he spoke and the fact that he involved the SSS and the EFCC.

“I am deeply distressed; the EFCC will invite us to state our side of the story. I know this for sure.”

The lawmaker, however, insisted that he was clean and could vouch for many members of the committee.

“We were never involved; Farouk acted alone, as the lone-ranger he has been known to be,” the member added.

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Checks by The PUNCH showed that at least three of the panel members were out of the country as at Monday.

One of them was in Lagos, one was in Abuja, while another one reportedly travelled to one of the states in the South-East.

Investigations revealed that they had made frantic telephone calls to one another since the bribery allegation was made public.

One of the panel members told our correspondent, “So far, no one has admitted to be in the picture of this development (bribery allegations).”

In a telephone conversation with The PUNCH, a key member of the panel said they might disown Lawan, as they knew nothing about the bribe money.

“Going from now forward, we will have to issue a joint statement making our position clear on this issue,” the member said.

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Asked why they were refusing to speak on record if indeed their hands were clean, the lawmaker said it was safer to remain silent for now, since it was unclear the direction the investigation by security agencies would take.

When contacted on Monday to react to Otedola’s comments, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said all the House could say was that the House would investigate the matter.

He said, “Go and look at the statement we issued on Saturday.

“Our position is clearly stated there; that we will conduct a through investigation into the allegations.

“Nobody will be spared if found wanting.”

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