By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Okey Ndiribe & Emman Ovuakporie
LAGOS — The leadership of the House of Representatives was last night considering two options in the wake of the bribery scandal that has engulfed its investigation into the utilisation of subsidy in the prices of petrol.
The House options, Vanguard learnt, were upon pressures from members of the House who were peeved over what they saw as a stain in the image that the Aminu Tambuwal House had sought to uphold.
At the centre of the emerging scandal is the chairman of the House ad-hoc committee on the Utilisation of fuel subsidies, Lawan Farouk. He was, yesterday, formally accused by diesel merchant, Mr. Femi Otedola of demanding $3 million bribe to supposedly clear him, Otedola and his companies from culpability in the committee’s report.
In an interview published by a national newspaper, yesterday, Otedola stated that Lawan and an official of the committee collected the sum of $620,000 in part payment of the alleged bribe in marked money supposedly provided by security agencies. Lawan, had prior to yesterday’s disclosure denied culpability, alleging the determination of those indicted by his committee’s report to fight back dirty.
Lawan could not be reached yesterday for further reactions following the formal accusations by Otedola.
Though the House is currently on break, an unusual tension was evident in the offices of the House of Representatives yesterday with angry members expressing regret over the latest development. The clerk of the committee cited by Mr. Otedola who allegedly collected part of the bribe money alongside Lawan, Boniface Emenalo was out of his office throughout yesterday. His secretary repeatedly stated that Emenalo was not in the office during repeated visits by newsmen to the office.
The options before the House
Vanguard learnt last night that upon the pressures from House members, the House leadership was now leaning towards two options. The first is to dump Lawan from his position as chairman of the ad-hoc committee. Under the option which is seriously favoured by a majority of those in the hierarchy of the House, Lawan would also be stopped from presiding during the appearance of the 17 companies who were re-invited by the Lawan committee following their complaints that they were indicted by Lawan’s committee without hearing from them.
Under the second option Lawan would be left to continue in his duties while the House would give full liberty to security agencies to investigate the matter. That option which was initially favoured when the scandal broke is increasingly being discountenanced upon pressures from House members.
Meanwhile it was learnt yesterday that the House on resumption next Tuesday would take a resolution on the issue based on the option it finally adopts.
Irrespective of the resolution, the hierarchy of the House is determined to push the executive arm of government to implement the recommendations of the report earlier submitted by the Lawan committee.
House members were further angered by what they claimed as the initial arrogance of the alleged chief culprit once he was called upon by Speaker Tambuwal to defend himself when the scandal first broke.
Lawan walks out on Speaker Tambuwal
When he was confronted with the allegation last week on the circumstances under which he allegedly collected the money, he angrily denied and walked out on the speaker and the principal officers present at the meeting.