Lagos/Abuja — The House of Representatives will hold its emergency plenary session today to determine the fate of its chairman, Ad hoc Committee Monitoring the Fuel Subsidy, Hon. Farouk Lawan, over his alleged involvement in a $620,000 bribe to clear Zenon Oil and Gas.
However, Lawan will not attend today's session as the police which are investigating the allegation that he collected $500,000 from Zenon's Chairman, Mr. Femi Otedola, being part payment for the $3 million demanded from the oil mogul, have detained him after interrogation.
Lawan was purported to have demanded the money from Otedola to remove his company's name from the list of firms in the probe report that bought foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but failed to import petroleum products.
Notwithstanding Lawan's absence, sources said last night that the House would go ahead with the emergency session where far-reaching decisions on the matter will be taken.
Details also emerged yesterday on how Lawan stuffed some of the marked bills, after he collected them from Otedola's house, in his flowing traditional attire and cap to hide the money from prying eyes.
Security sources told THISDAY that Lawan arrived at the force headquarters yesterday at approximately 4 pm, after he had kept the police waiting for almost a week having been invited to make a statement.
Otedola on Tuesday had visited the police headquarters where he told detectives how Lawan pestered him with a demand of $3 million to clear his company and how, on the advice of security agents, he had played along and passed marked bills, provided by the security agents to Lawan, unknown to him that the whole transaction was being recorded.
On arrival at the force headquarters, Lawan, accompanied by his legal team, was said to have gone straight to the 7th floor where he was received by the acting Inspector General of Police (IG), M.D Abubakar, alongside the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of investigation and other top brass of the force.
His interrogation was said to have started at about 7 pm and was conducted by a team of detectives headed by the Commissioner of Police, Ali Amodu, who heads the Special Task Force Abubakar had set up to probe the allegations.
Although details of his interrogation were sketchy as at press time, it was gathered that Lawan did not bring the $500,000 he collected as demanded by the detectives.
However, one of the police sources said that the money would be retrieved from him soon and he would remain in police custody until investigation into the matter is concluded.
Lawan's lawyers were said to have left the force headquarters at about 8 pm when it was obvious to them that he would be detained.
Deputy spokesman of the force, Frank Mbah, a Superintendent of Police, could not ascertain if Lawan would be released last night or not, adding that the embattled legislator came in very late.
It was learnt that Lawan, who had evaded the police for almost one week, was forced yesterday to reconsider his position when he learnt that the police were planning to arrest him to ensure that he does not attend today's emergency plenary session of the House.
A lawmaker, who did not want to be named, said that at today's session, the House would remove Lawan as chairman of the ad hoc committee which still has a standing assignment to investigate 17 oil marketers to determine their involvement in the subsidy regime.
At today's session, the Order Paper for the day would dwell primarily on a single item- the bribery scandal. But the open plenary would be preceded by a special secret session.
If parliamentary precedence is anything to go by, the executive session might entail a last ditch effort to save Lawan and redeem the image of the green chamber.
As at yesterday, Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, and other principal officers had held several meetings to strategise on how best to handle the crisis without rocking the boat.
Sources in the lower chamber disclosed that the House will appoint another panel to review the main report of the subsidy probe. The new panel will be charged with the responsibility of completing the outstanding probe of the 17 oil marketing firms which were erroneously indicted in the report.
In addition, Lawan's case will be referred to the House Committee on Ethics and Priviledges which will probe the extent of his involvement in the allegations that he collected bribes from oil marketers, including Otedola. The committee will be given two weeks to submit its report to the House.
"Whether he attends the emergency session tomorrow or not is immaterial. The session will go on as scheduled, but he will be removed as the chairman of the ad hoc committee and his case referred to the Ethics and Privilege Committee, which has the power to probe him anywhere he is," the lawmaker said.
THISDAY further learnt that Lawan visited Otedola's house on three different occasions over the bribe issue. On each occasion, he drove himself in a C class Mercedes Benz. Five video recordings, lasting an average of eight to 10 minutes each were made on each of those visits.
According to a source in the security services, on the first visit, he had lunch with Otedola where the amount to be paid was negotiated and eventually agreed on.
On his second visit, which was around 11 pm, he collected the first tranche of $250,000 and during the third visit when he came around 5.05 am, he collected the second tranche of $250,000. He was dressed in green buba and sokoto with a cap to match.
Later in the day at the plenary session after he had collected the second tranche, he got the House to clear Zenon as one of the companies that bought foreign exchange but did not import petroleum products.
"In the video, Lawan was clearly seen stuffing wads of dollar bills into his pocket, when his pocket was full, to the utter shock of all those who have seen the damning video, he removed his cap and concealed the remaining wads of dollar bills inside it and replaced the cap on his head.
"Nigerians will reel with laughter if they ever get to watch this video. It is on the one hand hilarious and on the other, shameful," a source said.
Further investigations revealed that Lawan's resort to stuffing the money in his pockets and cap was done to avoid arousing suspicion from Otedola's domestic help who would have seen him entering the house empty handed and coming out carrying a bulging envelope.
However, unknown to him, a surveillance video camera carefully installed by the SSS was recording all his actions.