Counsel to the beleaguered former Chairman of the House Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management, Mr. Farouk Lawan, in an interview with Channels Television, has dismissed the audio recording of a purported conversation between Lawan and Zenon Oil boss, Femi Otedola as “nothing but a caricature”.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Mike Ozekhome said: “What we saw on Channels Television was nothing but a caricature, a very infantile, very puerile, highly-edited, terribly doctored audio statement purported to be the voices of Mr. Femi Otedola and Mr. Farouk Lawan”.
Ozekhome said the audio recording, exclusively obtained and aired today by the television station, was false. In the audio recording, featured the voices, purportedly that of Farouk Lawan and oil magnate Otedola as they decided on how best to transfer $2.5 million to Lawan, the remainder of the $3 million bribe which Otedola claims was demanded of him.
In the audio recording of the incriminating phone conversation, a voice suspected to be that of Lawan’s could be heard telling Otedola, the other person heard in the conversation, to transfer the $2.5 million through a third party, a man named TJ.
Lawan’s defence has reacted swiftly to the audio recordings, denying its legitimacy as evidence against Kano state lawmaker.
“The first point I want to make on behalf of Mr. Farouk Lawan, which he instructed me to make, is that our challenge remains. And the challenge is that either Mr. Femi Otedola or the SSS or the police should produce the full unedited and undoctored audio visual video of his encounter with Mr. Femi Otedola,” Ozekhome stated emphatically.
Though the audio recording was of a phone conversation, Lawan’s lawyer demanded that his client’s accusers produce a visual component to the audio recording.
He called into question the validity of the video recording, which Zenon Oil boss, Otedola has repeatedly claimed to have in his possession. The businessman, who alleged that Lawan had demanded the bribes from him in order to remove his company from a list of indicted fraudulent oil firms, said he had played along as part of a sting operation.
Ozokhome in his interview today faulted Otedola’s claims that Lawan had visited his Lagos residence to collect the first installments of the bribes. He called on authorities to released the video footage proving Otedola’s claims, if they do have it.
“The bribe that was allegedly given, where was it given, what was the setting,” the counsel said, adding that “Mr. Lawan maintains that the first $250,000 he was given, which was taken as an agent provacateur to provoke Mr. Femi Otedola to come out and bribe, took place at Protea Hotel in Apo, Abuja.”
This he said was contrary to Otedola’s claim that the bribery transaction had taken place at his Lagos residence. He said on the days in question, 23-24
He reiterated his camp’s belief that the audio recording, which he said was full of ellipses, was doctored and not evidence of any wrongdoing on his client’s part.
“The statement itself did not start from the beginning. It started suddenly from nowhere,” Ozokhome said of the audio recording. “It also ended abruptly when he was talking of the telephone number of one TJ.”
The counsel demanded to know what was said before and after the recording.
“Nigerians are interested in a comprehensive, unedited, undoctored, unmanipulated audio visual CD of the entire transaction,” he said.