The police are finalising plans to arraign the suspended Chairman, House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Fuel Subsidy regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan, for allegedly taking a bribe, THISDAY has learnt.
The planned arraignment, which could take place next week, follows the conclusion of investigation into the bribe-for-clearance scandal in which Lawan was purported to have collected $500,000 from the Chairman, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, Mr. Femi Otedola, to doctor the report of the ad hoc committee. Detectives who investigated the matter are said to have finished and submitted their report to the police Legal Department for advice on the next course of action.
THISDAY learnt that Lawan will be arraigned along with the clerk of the ad hoc committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, who reportedly collected $120,000 from Otedola as part of the advance for the bribe-for-clearance scandal that has rocked the House.
Lawan, during the investigation, had stridently denied receiving the bribe from Otedola to alter the report, saying he collected the $500,000 as evidence that Otedola was trying to pressurise him to remove his company from the list of companies that bought foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without importing fuel.
However, several efforts to retrieve the money from him have failed as he stuck to his tale that he gave the money and an accompanying letter to the Chairman, House Committee on Narcotic Drugs and Financial Crimes, Hon. Adams Jagaba.
Jagaba, though, has rebutted Lawan's claim that he wrote a letter in which he informed him (Jagaba) of attempts to bribe the ad hoc committee and attached the money to it. It was learnt that the police investigative team, headed by Ali Amodu, the Commissioner of Police in charge of the Special Task Force, during the investigation, was able to gather some incriminating evidence which would be used to prosecute Lawan and Emenalo in court.
A source told THISDAY that as at Tuesday, the team had finalised its investigation and had submitted a report to the Legal Department for advice. The source said the Legal Department, in its response, recommended the trial of the duo. According to the source, "Our team rounded off its investigation into Lawan's case on Tuesday and the Legal Department has advised that the lawmaker and the secretary should be prosecuted in the court of law."
Although the source could not give a precise date on when both men will be charged to court, he said it will be next week. When contacted for confirmation, Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), declined to speak on the matter, saying that he would only do that at "the right time."
Otedola, in his account of the incident, narrated how Lawan had approached him for bribe so that they could doctor the report in which they had accused Zenon Oil of buying foreign exchange from the CBN without importing fuel. The ad hoc committee report, laid before the House on April 18, had listed Zenon Oil among 15 companies that collected foreign exchange without importing fuel.
The report recommended that Zenon Oil, which was said to have collected $232,975,385.13 and other marketers that obtained foreign exchange without importing petroleum products should be referred to the anti-corruption agencies to determine what they used their allocations for. He said Lawan demanded $3 million from him to remove his company's name from the list, but he refused to budge because he knew he had committed no crime.
However, when Lawan persisted, even telling him that he should pay up as some other oil marketers had done likewise to influence the committee, he demurred, adding that he later informed security agencies about the solicitation for bribe by the legislator.
According to him, the security agencies advised him to play along and offered to pay part of the money with the promise that he would pay the balance when his company's name was removed from the report. The security agencies, he added, gave him marked money which he gave to Lawan and Emenalo, without the duo knowing that the whole transaction was being recorded.
Otedola said during the sting, Lawan and Boniface collected a total of $620,000 in three instalments. Lawan, when interrogated behind closed-doors by the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges, which also investigated the allegation, said what he collected was "money and not a bribe." Restating his earlier statement to the media, Lawan said he collected $500,000 from Otedola not as a bribe but as evidence to prove the attempt by the oil marketer to influence the report of the subsidy probe.