The Police and State Security Service have closed ranks in the former’s bid to crack the $3m bribery case that involves a former chairman, House of Representatives Ad hoc committee on subsidy, Mr. Farouk Lawan, it was authoritatively gathered on Friday.
Lawan and the Clerk to his committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, had collected a total of $620,000 from oil magnate, Mr. Femi Otedola, to remove his firm, Zenon Oil from the House list of companies that purportedly collected FOREX for fuel importation, but did not do so.
Earlier requests from the Police Special Task Force headed by Ali Ahmodu, to the Director-General, SSS, Mr. Ekpeyong Ita, for assistance in providing the video that captured how the bribe was collected, and telephone call records were rebuffed.
But an impeccable police source familiar with the investigation told SUNDAY PUNCH in Abuja, that the two security agencies had resolved their differences.
He said, “We are working together now to crack the case.
“We are sister security agencies, and we need their assistance just as they need ours. Though the SSS didn’t send us the evidence on time, we didn’t want to report to higher authorities (the presidency), so that we would not be seen to be against them.”
Otedola had earlier claimed that the SSS was involved in what he called “a sting operation” in getting the bribe across to the suspects.
Meanwhile, the Police have declared Thursday’s quizzing of Lawan by the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, as illegal, adding that the House had no constitutional right to investigate a criminal matter.
A top police officer said a member of the Committee, Mr. Jagaba, was a suspect, adding that it was not proper for a “suspect to interrogate a suspect.”
The House Ethics committee headed by Gambo Musa had grilled Lawan, who reportedly told its members that what he collected was “money” and not “bribe.”
Lawan’s interrogation was held behind closed doors, contrary to an earlier promise by the House to make it public.
A senior police detective with the Special Task Force told one of our correspondents that the committee was
muddling up their work by quizzing Lawan, and summoning other members of his committee and Otedola.
Otedola is to appear before the committee on Tuesday.
The source advised the House to adhere to its decision during its emergency plenary where it resolved to detach itself from the investigation and wait for the outcome of police investigations.
He said, “The House is going beyond its brief by asking its committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate the bribery scandal which the police are already working on.
“They have no legal right to investigate a criminal case that police investigators are probing. Besides, some members of the committee (on ethics and privileges) are suspects in the bribery scandal because Lawan in his statement claimed he gave the bribe to Adams Jagaba.
“We don’t want to take issues with the House, but at the appropriate time, we will move against all of them; we are just bidding our time and following the rule of law,” the officer stated.
The House had during a session on June 15, 2012 directed its Committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate the $620,000 bribery allegation and report back to the House within two weeks.
It was gathered that the STF was trying to establish if other members of the committee benefited from the $620,000 bribe, including house members.
Where the money is kept remains a puzzle for the police as Lawan has failed to surrender it, just as Jagaba denied Lawan’s claim that he gave the cash to him for safe-keeping.
On the saga, the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Rueben Abati, said the president was interested in ensuring that all corruption cases related to the subsidy were investigated and culprits brought to book.
He said, “When the President spoke in January on the complete deregulation of the downstream sector, he said it was an attempt to sanitise the sector, rid it of corruption and eliminate waste.
“It was the president’s effort that triggered the House of Representatives probe of the subsidy regime and the revelations that followed.
“That was why immediately he got a copy of the report of the House of Representatives probe, he handed it over to the Attorney-General with a clear directive to send it to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for thorough investigation and prosecution.”
Abati also said the report of the Aig-Imhokuede committee set up by the Ministry of Finance on the same issue had been formally presented to the President.
He said like he did with the report of the House of Representatives, Jonathan would send the report to appropriate agencies for actions.