Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Rep. Farouk Lawan (PDP, Kano), yesterday denied he had received $600,000 bribe from an oil marketer to influenced the report, describing the allegation as baseless and cheap blackmail.
He said after his committee uncovered a N1 trillion fraud in the subsidy implementation, it should be expected that the powerful cabal behind the high-scale corruption in the oil sector would not only fight back but would fight dirty.
Lawan, in a statement, denied ever meeting the unnamed oil marketer at the Abuja airport to receive the $600,000 first instalment of what was said to be a $3 million bribe, adding that he had to leave the country when pressures were coming from high quarters to doctor the report to suit certain interest.
The statement reads in part: "I wish to categorically deny that I or any member of the committee demanded and received any bribe from anybody in connection with the fuel subsidy probe and I believe this is evident from thorough and indepth manner the investigation was carried out and the all- encompassing recommendations produced there from as approved by the whole House.
"The general public is hereby reminded that during and after the investigations, we have severally raised alarm on pressures on us from different quarters. In particular, I wish to refer to the front page publication in the Leadership Weekend newspaper of 28th, April, 2012 captioned "Marketers offered subsidy committee plane-load of dollars" where we alerted the public that a marketer promised to fly in a jet loaded with US dollars which he "intended to share to both the House leadership and members of the ad hoc committee to influence the outcome of the report.
"The clarification is necessary in order to clear all the insinuations being bandied about and more importantly to enable government concentrate on the implementation of the report.
"The present mudslinging is not unexpected in view of the calibre of people whose actions or inactions were found wanting in the report. I am aware that in their desperation to discredit the report and divert the attention of the public from the real issues of large-scale fraud in high places established in our report, a video footage displaying a caricature of my person allegedly having a dealing with a marketer reminiscent of military era when dignitaries were invited to the Villa to watch video clip of phantom coup involving Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is already in circulation.
"I wish to assure all Nigerians that the sanctity of our reports remains unassailable and it will be in the best interest of the country if the relevant authorities faithfully and consciously implement the resolutions of the House. No amount of red-herring and cheap blackmail will affect our resolve to act in the best interest of the country with all the available information at our disposal. No doubt, the last has not been heard".
In a brief interview, Lawan said the committee informed the House of all the attempts made to reach out to the members and all the issues were discussed.
"You don't fight corruption and expect that these people will just be silent. We anticipate they were going to fight back and fight dirty. There were several threats on our lives when we were doing the investigations. At a point, I did not sleep in my house for five days. And because of the pressures from very high quarters, I had to leave this country. I believe the aim of the persons peddling the latest news is to divert attention from the report. This is not about me but a way of diverting attention from the findings in that report. We were approached and we made it known to the House. That was why the Speaker made allusions to the fact that these persons would fight back and would fight dirty during the presentation of that report", he said.
Lawan said he would speak further on the matter as events unfold.