Rep vows not to release ‘evidence of bribe’
THE police have stepped into the cash-for-clearance controversy rocking the House of Representatives.
House member Farouk Lawan is accused of collecting $600,000 bribe from businessman Femi Otedola.
The lawmaker, chairman of the House Committee which probed the fuel subsidy scandal, insists that he reported to a House official that he got cash from the businessman who, he said, wanted his company’s name removed from the list of those who collected money from the Federal Government but imported no products.
But, Otedola maintains that he was blackmailed into parting with the cash and that he told security agencies who, in fact, gave him the dollar bills that Lawan got.
The police have directed Lawan to surrender the “marked” cash. The lawmaker insists he will not because, according to him, it is the only proof he has that he rejected a bribe from Otedola.
Inspector-General of Police M. D. Abubakar has asked a Special Task Force(STF), headed by a Commissioner of Police, Ali Amodu, to examine the issue.
The STF began investigation on May 9, but the police have been having difficulties in retrieving the cash from Lawan.
The Nation yesterday stumbled on some documents, including details of the interaction between the police and Lawan.
In a May 9 memo to Lawan, entitled “Re: Criminal Conspiracy and Attempt to Offer Gratification to Pervert the Course of Justice”, Amodu said: “Consequent upon the publication in the Leadership newspaper of Saturday 28/04/2012 captioned ‘Marketers offered subsidy committee plane load of dollars’, the IGP directed a discreet investigation into the matter.
“The Task Force on the investigation will require meeting with you to assist them in the ongoing investigation at your earliest convenience. Your cooperation will be highly appreciated, please.”
In a follow-up letter to Lawan on May 16, (Re: Criminal conspiracy and attempt to offer gratification to pervert the course of justice), CP Ali said: “Further to my letter dated 9th May, 2012 in respect of the above subject matter, and the recent meeting you held with DCP Peace Abdallah, you are requested to avail this office with the following requests:
Monetary exhibit; Names of the vital witness; and any other material evidence that may be of use to this investigation. Your usual co-operation would be highly appreciated. Accept the best wishes of the Inspector-General of Police please.”
But Lawan, in his response on May 31 (Re: Criminal Conspiracy and Attempt to Offer Gratification to Pervert the Course of Justice) said: “I refer to your letter of 16th May, 2012, and wish to inform you that as DCP Peace Abdallah was briefed, the subject matter was referred to the relevant Committee of the House of Representatives for further legislative action. You shall be availed of the outcome in due course.”
Ali replied Lawan on June 4, in a memo which was entitled “Investigation activities: Letter of invitation in a case of criminal conspiracy and attempt to pervert the course of justice by offering gratification.”
The letter said: “I refer to a letter dated 31st May, 2012 addressed to this office by Hon. Farouk Lawan, the Chairman of House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Subsidy Regime on the above subject matter (copy attached) and to inform you that the Inspector General of Police has directed a detailed criminal investigation into the matter.
“Consequently, the Hon. Speaker is requested to ask the Chairman, Hon. Farouk Lawan and the Secretary of the Committee to have a meeting with the under-signed on Thursday 7th June, 2012 at 100hrs at Force Headquarters, Room I.D 068, First Floor, Louis Edet House, Abuja .
“This is to enable detectives to conduct further investigation into the matter.
“While awaiting the Hon. Speaker’s kind consideration of this request, do accept the assurances and esteemed regards of the Inspector- General of Police, please.”
A highly-placed source said: “The butt of the investigation has been on the retrieval of the bribe sum from Lawan by the police. I think some people are planning to relieve him of the evidence in his possession.
“But it was alleged by Otedola that the SSS gave out the money for a sting operation. Why are the police worried about the bribe sum?
“Lawan is prepared to lay the bribe sum only before a court. He does not want his evidence tampered with.
“In the last few days, Lawan has been receiving threat messages from some quarters. And for him to release the evidence he will rely in court to prove his case will amount to suicide. Why are they not disturbing the bribe giver?”
The decision by the House leadership to get to the root of the allegation may, however, slow down the police investigation
According to the documents obtained by our correspondent, the bribe was actually offered on April 24.
Some of the documents contain the transcripts of calls between Farouk and Otedola during the sitting of the committee.
In a hand-written memo to the Chairman of the House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Adams Jagaba, which is dated April 24 and timed 3.47am, Lawan gave details of what he said transpired between him and Otedola.
The memo said: “You may please recall that I intimated you of the persistence of Mr. Femi Otedola, Chairman Forte Oil, Zenon Oil and AP Petroleum to offer monetary inducement to influence the outcome and Consolidation of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Petroleum Subsidy.
“Attached is the sum of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) only offered to me with another promise of two million, five hundred thousand dollar ($2.5m). I had considered bringing this issue as a matter of privilege on the floor of the House later today when the House sits, but I am concerned the controversy it will generate will dwarf the content of the report which needs public attention so that the necessary reforms in the sector could be effected.
“I however believe that given the desperation of Mr. Otedola, handling this matter in a furious but diplomatic manner is necessary as he has also made some vested threats which put me and members of my Committee in a delicate situation.
“While reporting this matter to you and hoping that appropriate action will be taken, we shall continue to monitor him and if further offers are made, we shall duly handover to your committee.”
The Secretary to the Ad Hoc Committee, Mr. B. C. Emenalo, who also wrote a memo to Lawan on April 24, explained his encounter with Otedola.
The memo, entitled “Consistent Pressure to Compromise by Managing Director and Chairman, Zenon Oil and Gas, AP and Forte”, reads: “My earlier report/discussion with you on the above subject matter and your directives refer.
“I wish to inform you that I was on his invitation, at the residence of their(Zenon Oil and Gas, AP, Forte) 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 hereby forwarded as evidence.
“Please find attached the exhibit for onward transmission to the relevant Committee and Leadership.”
According to sources, although Lawan was allegedly tricked to collect the money at about 3.47am, he sensed the danger and decided to alert Jagaba.
A source said: “On the day the bribe was offered, Lawan left a meeting at about 2.30am but he saw over 50 missed calls from Otedola and became curious on why the oil baron wanted him. He insisted that Lawan must come to his house and they met at about 3.47am.
“Nigerians will hear what they have never heard before on this matter. Let them go to court so that there won’t be any cover-up.
“Let them also play the tape, provided they have not edited it. Nigerians will be able to know the true story.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “Lawan had wanted to raise the alarm on the floor of the House but he was prevailed upon by some members not to do so.
“Actually, there was a division on whether to bring it up immediately or not. But Lawan notified the Representatives and principal members of the House. They asked him to stay action.
“When he could not withstand it, Lawan decided to grant an interview to Leadership newspaper to alert the nation.”
The police investigation of the bribery allegation is said to be at the prompting of some forces in the Presidency.
The House member, insisting on his integrity, released some documents yesterday. One of them shows that the embattled Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime was offered the bribe by Otedola, Chairman of Forte Oil, on April 24 - barely six days after the submission of the panel’s report.
The panel submitted its report on April 18, 2012.
But Lawan actually reported and handed over the controversial $600,000 bribe to the Chairman of the House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Mr. Adams Jagaba the day it was offered, according to a letter Lawan wrote.
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