2 November 2012

Nigeria: U.S.$620,000 Bribe Scandal - House Committee May Exonerate Lawan

Photo: Vanguard
Rep. Farouk Lawan, accused of receiving bribe from oil marketers, could be exonerated.

The report of the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges that probed the allegations that the suspended chairman, House Ad Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Subsidy Regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan, collected bribe during its probe of fuel marketers, is ready for submission.

The report, which THISDAY gathered might exonerate the beleaguered lawmaker, who was also suspended as the chairman, House Committee on Education, will be submitted any time after the House resumes plenary on November 8.

The House in June had directed its Committee on Ethics and Privileges to probe the allegation that Lawan and the scribe of the committee, Mr. Boniface Emalano, collected $620,000 in three instalments from Chairman of Zenon Petroleum Limited, Mr. Femi Otedola, as part payment to remove Zenon's name from the list of companies that collected foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without importing petroleum products.

The $620,000 was meant to be part payment for the $3 million bribe Lawan had allegedly demanded from the oil chief to delist his company.

A member of the Ethics and Privileges Committee, Hon. Afam Ogene, told reporters yesterday in Abuja that the report had been ready for weeks.

Ogene, who is also the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, said it would be submitted to the House as soon as the legislative chamber resumed from its current recess.

Although Ogene declined to give further insight into the recommendations of the committee, a source said the report might exonerate Lawan.

Since the cash-for-clearance scandal broke, Lawan, besides appearing before the House Committee, has also been investigated by the police and is currently on administrative bail.

The embattled lawmaker, who had initially denied receiving the money from Otedola, changed the story as incontrovertible evidence of the scandal made its way into the public domain.

When he appeared before the House Ethics and Privileges Committee, Lawan, who gave his testimony in camera, admitted to collecting $500,000 from Otedola.

Otedola, on the other hand, refused to give evidence in camera when he appeared before the committee.

Sources told THISDAY that Otedola might have inadvertently given Lawan an escape route when he (Otedola) refused to hand over to the committee evidence to substantiate his allegations that Lawan and Emenalo received a total of $620,000.

Otedola had argued that the committee had ulterior motives by its insistence on conducting the investigation behind closed doors.

However, several probes have not been able to establish the whereabouts of the $620,000, as Lawan has stuck to his claim that he gave it to the House Committee Chairman, Narcotics Drugs and Financial Crimes, Hon. Adams Jagaba, while the latter has maintained that he did not receive any money from him.

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