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Nigeria’s House of Representatives to suspend Honourable Farouk Lawan

Chairman of the Adhoc Committee on Petroleum Subsidy, Honourable Farouk Lawan

Contrary to his frantic denial of involvement in the ongoing scandal over a $3m bribery allegation, the chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on the fuel subsidy probe, Hon. Farouk Lawan, collected money to alter the outcome of the probe, LEADERSHIP findings have revealed.

A top state security official who spoke to LEADERSHIP on the condition of anonymity yesterday said Lawan was taped in a sting while he was collecting the money.

“We have him on tape and video. He took the money and he can’t deny it,” the source said.

The chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, Mr. Femi Otedola, had said in press reports yesterday that Lawan collected $500,000 from him in two instalments in a sting arranged with the security agencies.

Otedola said that, on April 21, the Saturday before the plenary, Lawan came to his residence and collected $250,000 in cash as the first instalment.

“Then the next Monday night he came and collected another. On Tuesday at 9am, just before the House commenced sitting, Boniface (secretary of the committee) came and collected another $120,000.”

This has also been confirmed by Emenalo, who, in a letter dated April 24, 2012, stated that he, indeed, received $100,000 from Otedola.

The letter which he addressed to Lawan and was obtained by LEADERSHIP on Monday reads in part: “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 hereby forwarded as evidence.”

Confirming that Otedola’s narration of what transpired between him and Lawan was the truth, the source disclosed that, unknown to Lawan, Otedola was part of a sting operation that went all the way to the presidency and that even the dollar notes offered by the oil marketer and received by Lawan were marked by security officials.

Lawan had called a press conference on Sunday where he denied either demanding or receiving bribe in the course of the fuel subsidy probe, claiming that the allegation was contrived by those who wanted to discredit his committee’s report.

But sources with inside knowledge of the scandal insist that Lawan’s denial is mere grandstanding as there is overwhelming evidence against him including a video of the transaction.

Meanwhile, following implicating evidence emerging from the scandal, the House of Representatives may convene a special session to move for the suspension of the lawmaker.

LEADERSHIP gathered on yesterday that the consideration by the House leadership is due to the pressure that has been mounting on them to protect the integrity of the House and remove the persons involved in the scandal to be fully investigated by the relevant anti-graft agencies.

But some members and the leadership have stated that it is unlikely that a special session will be convened just to suspend the lawmaker, though they admitted that it was the prerogative of the speaker to do that.

“It is unlikely that we will reconvene just to treat Lawan’s suspension”, a lawmaker said. “The matter will definitely come up when we resume on Tuesday next week.”

Attempts to contact other members of the House leadership proved abortive as they were either out of town or not available for comment.

Sources who pleaded anonymity told LEADERSHIP that the leadership of the House had already met on the matter on Sunday and resolved that Lawan would not be shielded, especially because he kept the matter secret until the lid was blown open and the speaker confronted him with the facts which he initially denied until the video was played for him to watch.

It was learnt that Farouk’s attempt to explain to his colleagues during plenary on Wednesday last week, before the House went on recess, that the money was received as evidence to show that he was being bribed by Otedola, an explanation which was rejected by his colleagues because of the time that it had taken between when the money was allegedly received and the time he decided to report it.

A lawmaker who spoke to LEADERSHIP said, “He is on his own. We cannot be deceived to accept an explanation that the money was kept as evidence. If that is true, why did he decide to bring it to the open only after it had been found out? For the sake of the integrity of this House and in line with our legislative agenda which states zero tolerance for corruption, we have taken a stand that he has to be suspended pending the outcome of investigation on the matter.”

Some returning members who spoke on the scandal described it as karma for the lawmaker for the role he played in the impeachment of former speaker Patricia Etteh under his ‘‘Integrity Group’’. According to one of the lawmakers, “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”.

The news broke over the weekend that Femi Otedola induced the chairman with a part payment of $600,000 in a $3m deal that would ensure that his companies were not implicated in the fuel subsidy probe report.

Lawan allegedly received the money in person from an intermediary of the oil mogul, but he did not know that the transaction was being secretly recorded with a pen camera.

The development will be a setback for a House battling to redeem its image, which was only recently dented by a similar bribery scam between the House Committee on Capital Markets and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs Hon. Zakari Mohammed had earlier stressed that they stood by the resolutions of the report as adopted and passed by the House and urged the executive not to use the allegations as an excuse for not implementing its recommendations.

Mohammed stated: “The attention of the House of Representatives has been drawn to reports alleging that one of its members has, in the course of his committee work as a member of the ad-hoc committee which investigated the subsidy regime, allegedly received a gratification from an oil baron to exonerate his companies from complicity in the oil subsidy scam.

“While we await investigation into these weighty accusations, we wish to state without equivocation that this Honourable House will never take sides with corruption and we will always stand on the side of the rule of law. The reason we inaugurated the ad-hoc committee to look into the controversial subsidy regime in the first place was to expose corruption in the sector; as such, we cannot, for whatever reason, support any underhand dealing from any quarter.

“However, these accusations, whatever their merits, do not detract from the quality of the work done by the committee. The report of that committee was adopted by the whole House and we stand by the resolutions of the House.

“We hope that the Executive will not, because of this allegation, abandon its commitment towards bringing to justice the culprits already identified in the committee’s report”.

Anger and apprehension pervaded the Senate over the raging allegation of bribery in the House of Representatives.

A source disclosed that the only mitigating factor now would be the expected report of its ad-hoc committee that handled a similar assignment.

“For now, it is Senator Magnus Abe, chairman of the ad-hoc committee that probed the management of the subsidy fund, that will give the status of the report. We will never be cowed into carrying out our function… even at that, we will still view the development as an allegation yet to be proved. Yet acceptable is that the current situation is not a good commentary,” the source said.

Otedola guilty of entrapment — Sagay

Reacting to the allegation of $620,000 bribery involving the managing director of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, Mr. Femi Otedola, against the chairman of the House committee that investigated the fuel subsidy regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan, a foremost constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), has said that Otedola was guilty of entrapment.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP over the phone, Prof. Sagay said entrapment is an immoral way of trapping someone with criminal tendencies to commit the suspected crime. “It is a plan to trap someone into a criminal situation. If a person is suspected to be a drug dealer, a policeman can pose as a drug addict. And when the drug dealer comes to sell the drug, he will be arrested. The problem with entrapment is that the crime does not occur naturally. If one is successfully entrapped, it is an immoral way of establishing someone’s criminal tendencies,” he said.

On whether Otedola was guilty of entrapment, Sagay simply replied, “That is what it could mean.”

Sagay expressed regret over the allegation preferred against Lawan, saying he had always seen the four-time House of Representatives member as the face of integrity and transparency in the National assembly. “It is a major tragedy for this country. If it is true, then, it will leave a major vacuum in the National Assembly,” he stated.

He further called on all Nigerians and the civil society organisations to resist what he called an attempt by the cabal indicted in the report to cast a slur on the integrity of the committee that produced the report.
Culled from Leadership
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2 Responses to “Nigeria’s House of Representatives to suspend Honourable Farouk Lawan”

  1. Otuenu Henry Avwerosuo (Esq) says:

    Falouk Lawan should be suspended frm d House pending the investigation into d allegation. As it stands he has a legislative blur and it won’t be mischievous to take proactive measure to restore sanctity of d House

  2. Anonymous says:

    We are headiong to no man’s land

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