Chairman of the House of Representatives Probe Panel on Fuel Subsidy Mismanagement, Farouk Lawan, has admitted that he collected $600,000 (about N96 million) from billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola.
Lawan owned up to it barely 24 hours after he denied collecting the bribe, saying he collected it as an evidence that he was bribed by Otedola.
Lawan had initially said in a statement he issued immediately the scandal was blown open: “ 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 the thorough and indepth manner the investigation was carried out and the all encompassing recommendations produced therefrom and approved by the whole House.”
He went further to claim that his image in the bribe taking video recording was doctored.
In what could be a volte face, Lawan told reporters yesterday in Abuja that he actually collected $500,000 from Otedola, adding that it was the Zenon Oil & Gas boss that initiated the bribe.
Lawan, however, said he kept the police informed about it and forwarded series of letters about it to the Inspector General of Police.
He said he also informed the relevant House Committee about the development.
All this may not hold any water any longer, considering reports that it took Lawan six weeks before he informed some principal officers of the House that an oil marketer attempted to bribe him.
And as the scandal gets messier by the day, more knocks have come the way of Lawan. Speaking with P.M.NEWS this morning, constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay said the whole idea was to cast doubt on the fuel subsidy report as the key actor in the probe has had his hand soiled.
“This is a major tragedy. Farouk Lawan represents one of the most positive faces in the Nigeria legislature. It is a tragedy for us as a country because anybody fighting corruption will be scared.
“Everybody should ensure the report (subsidy probe) is upheld. The EFCC should prosecute all involved. We can lose Lawan but not the report. The report must be implemented,” Sagay said.
Former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, should move in immediately and arrest Lawan and others indicted in the bribe scandal and prosecute them..
“I don’t know what the EFCC is waiting for. Now, they have no reason to wait anymore. They should act on Lawan and the subsidy report immediately,” he stated.
National Publicity Secretary, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Alhaji Lai Muhammed told P.M .EWS that it had been established beyond doubt that Lawan acted on his own in collecting the bribe and that this should not in any way affect the outcome of the fuel subsidy report.
Muhammed stated that the presidency might have set up the whole move in a bid to cast aspersion on the credibility of the fuel subsidy report, adding that it had been ascertained that Lawan took the money after the report had been concluded.
“Lawan should be docked. Investigations should be carried out to know the motive behind all these and the integrity of the report should not be affected at all,” he said.
Activist and lawyer, Bamidele Aturu wants a thorough investigation on Lawan and Otedola, saying that the fuel subsidy report must stay and be implemented.
He added that the ongoing scenario was a ploy by some people to ensure that the report of the fuel subsidy was not implemented.
Former Convener, United Action for Democracy, UAD, Comrade Abiodun Aremu said anybody found wanting should be punished severely, adding that Lawan’s bribe allegation had nothing to do with the integrity of the fuel subsidy report.
A lawyer, Chris Akiri faulted claims by Lawan that he took bribe to expose Otedola, saying that “you don’t take bribe to expose anybody. He has committed a criminal offence. The only way you can take something to expose an individual is through what we call agent provocateur, that is, you have to do it with the knowledge of the security agents.
“He collected N96 million for himself. He stole the money and must be prosecuted. The fuel subsidy report is now questionable. If he did that to remove some name, the report cannot stay. There is a heavy question hanging over the report and it cannot stay.”
Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo said Lawan has disgraced himself and his family, saying that “he said his picture was doctored but now admitting to the evidence. This is exposing himself to ridicule.
“The fuel subsidy report must be subjected to forensic analysis, that is, it must be investigated. Lawan must be prosecuted.”
Founder, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, Debo Adeniran said the corruption scandal should not in any way affect the fuel subsidy report, saying “it is a product of fact finding effort.
“More investigation should be carried and Lawan should face the anti-graft agency. Both Lawan and Otedola are guilty. If Otedola had reported to the security agencies that he wanted to give bribe to catch somebody, then, he should be exonerated. The same goes for Farouk. Another panel should be set up to carry out more investigation on this,” he said.
Spokesperson, Save Nigeria Group, Yinka Odumakin said the fuel subsidy report had nothing to do with the money allegedly collected by Lawan.
He stated that both Lawan and Otedola should be docked, adding that “there is no excuse for both parties. This has nothing to do with the fuel subsidy report. The two issues should be separated and both men should be prosecuted.”
Culled: PM News