28 January 2013

Nigeria: U.S.$620,000 Bribery Scam - AGF Bows to Keyamo, Begins Trial of Farouk Lawan

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the federal government will this week commence the trial of former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Education, Mr. Farouk Lawan , for allegedly receiving $620,000 bribe from a businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola, in order to strike out the name of his two oil firms, Zenon Oil and Forte Oil, from the list of indicted firms.

At the wake of oil subsidy crisis last year, the House of Representatives had set up an adhoc-committee headed by Lawan to probe the oil subsidy regime. This committee had indicted some oil firms and individuals of short-changing the subsidy regime to the tune of N1.7trn. The lawmakers consequently recommended their prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

However, Otedola alleged that Farouk-led adhoc committee demanded $3 million from him, out of which he paid $0.6 million as gratification in order for the committee to strike out the name of his company, Zenon Oil, from the list of indicted firms.

Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, had on Tuesday given a seven-day ultimatum to attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and the minister of justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN) to begin the court trial of the lawmaker and his accomplice or else he (Keyamo) would commence their prosecution as a private citizen.

Apparently bowing to Keyamo's threat, the AGF on Friday told journalists in Abuja that the federal government would this week begin the trial of Lawan and one Mr. Boniface Emenalo over the bribery allegation.

But responding to questions over Keyamo's threat, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), who has secured AGF's fiat to prosecute Lawan, said that Keyamo's statement was capable of jeopardizing the process of prosecuting Lawan except that the police had already finished its investigation of the matter and had provided verifiable facts to the AGF to commence the trial.

According to him: "Verifiable facts can only come from the police that investigated the matter. You don't investigate such matters based on what you read on the newspapers or heard over the radio and television. No, that is not investigation. The police have investigated the matter and I can assure you that the AGF will not react to the market talk. The matter will be in court next week.

"We will prosecute and not persecute. We are men of integrity, honour and learning. Nobody should think that he can use the market language or draw us to open debate on this matter. We are a not civil society organization. AGF is the chief law officer under the constitution and will exercise his power responsibly, and not irresponsibly to satisfy whims and caprice of civil society organizations.

"Prosecution is a serious business and a serious statutory duty; it is not a frivolous thing; you don't do it to catch fancy or to make people to hail you. These are persecutors and not prosecutors."

In Keyamo's ultimatum, he had requested Adoke to indicate whether he was prepared to prosecute Lawan or not, and accompanied the letter with a draft charge in readiness to commence private prosecution if Adoke failed to act.

According to Keyamo, his action was sequel to expiration of the ultimatum to the police to charge the lawmaker.

He attached to the criminal charge: the proof of evidence - a recording of a telephone conversation between Lawan and Otedola contained in a memory card wherein former was allegedly soliciting gratification to doctor his report and appealing to the latter to keep it secret; the transcript of the said recording and court processes (including a sworn testimony on oath) between Zenon Pet. & Gas Ltd. & Anor. V. Lawan & Ors, where the graphic details of how the accused persons solicited for, and received gratification from Femi Otedola were stated.

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