Former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on Monitoring of Subsidy Regime, Mr. Farouk Lawan, made a dramatic reappearance at the House on Thursday, the first since the $3m bribery scandal involving him broke out.
Chairman of Zenon Oil, Mr. Femi Otedola, had claimed that he gave $620,000 bribe to the lawmaker to remove his companies from the list of firms indicted by the committee for fuel subsidy fraud.
Lawan strolled into a session of the House presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, around 12.55pm.
The diminutive lawmaker shook hands with a few colleagues before taking his seat on the front row.
He exuded confidence as if nothing had happened in the past days.
The politician also shook hands with the House Majority Leader, Mrs. Adeola Mulika-Akande, and the Deputy Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, both sitted at the front row.
Lawan, however, did not bow to the mace, placed right in front of Tambuwal, which by the convention every member does.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party legislator from Kano State did not speak on any issue in the chamber before he left at about 1.25pm.
Asked for his reactions to the measures taken against him by the House, Lawan said the decisions were taken to protect the integrity and credibility of the legislature.
The House had at an emergency session last week, removed Lawan from the chairmanship of the fuel subsidy panel.
He was also suspended as the Chairman, House Committee on Education.
In a resolution passed at the session, the House supported the ongoing investigation into the $3m bribery allegation by the police, urging them to prosecute anyone found wanting.
Lawan said he bore no grudge against the House over the decisions, admitting that the legislature was bigger than an individual.
He said, “First of all, I think it is important to note that I have been a member of the House of Representatives in the last 13 years, of course with several of some of my colleagues (past and present).
“We have done so much to build the House as an institution that should enjoy the respect and confidence of Nigerians and whatever the decision taken by the House, I believe it is meant to ensure the credibility of the institution.
“Because, as members, we must at all times recognise that the institution is bigger than each and every one of us.
“It is an institution that belongs to this country, it is an institution which Nigerians rely for good legislation, for oversight responsibilities, for representation and it is an institution that must continue to give hope and confidence to the Nigerian people.”
Lawan added, “ The decision of the House is a collective decision of an institution and I have absolutely no problem with that decision.
“As far as the issue relating to me is concerned, I believe ultimately I will be vindicated; I just urge Nigerians to continue to be patient.
However, he did not speak on the $620,000 bribe he admitted receiving from Otedola.
He earlier told the police that he handed the money to the Chairman, House Committee on Drugs/Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Mr. Adams Jagaba.
But, on Tuesday, Jagaba denied collecting the money from Lawan.
Meanwhile, the House reacted on Thursday to comments by Otedola that its decisions taken last Friday were a “celebration of corruption.”
Spokesman for the House Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said the legislature believed that Otedola was as guilty as Lawan.
According to him, in every bribery case, “there is a giver and a receiver; both are guilty.”
He said Otedola’s claim that Lawan was trapped in a sting operation by the State Security Service did not hold water because they ought to have arrested the lawmaker immediately he collected the money, instead of letting him walk away.
He said, “There is a procedure for a sting operation and we all know it.
“However, we don’t want to join issues with Otedola because this matter is still under investigation.”
He advised Otedola to submit any further evidence he might have to the police or the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges for investigation instead of engaging in a media war.
Mohammed argued that the decisions of the House were taken in “defence of democracy.”
He explained that in the circumstances, all the House could do was to suspend Lawan and declare support for the investigation.
“We can not recall Lawan; only his constituency has the constitutional powers to do so”, he said.
Otedola had berated the House for re-listing his firm, Zenon Oil and Gas Limited, on the list of companies that took FOREX to import fuel but reportedly diverted it.
It reversed itself by directing anti-graft agencies to investigate and prosecute the firm as earlier recommended by the Lawan-led panel.
But, Otedola claimed that Zenon did not participate in the fuel subsidy scheme.