By Emmanuel Aziken, Kingsley Omonobi, Victor Ahiuma-Young & AbdulSalam Muhammad
ABUJA— Oil magnate, Femi Otedola, yesterday, stoked his charge against embattled Rep. Farouk Lawan, by handing over to the police, audio and video evidence of how Lawan got the first installment of the bribe and how he demanded the balance.
Sources close to Otedola told Vanguard yesterday that besides submitting the video and audio evidence,he told Police investigators inAbuja how Farouk mounted pressure on him with a list of senior officials of the House who he claimed were to be settled with the bribe money.
Meanwhile political leaders from Lawan’s political base inKanohave disowned him.
The evolving scandal nonetheless, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC waded in yesterday with an admonition that the bribery scandal should not in anyway distract from the process of implementing the recommendations originally reached by the Lawan committee.
Meantime, the House leadership was last night meeting on how to respond to the damaging revelations spewing from the scandal. Among the options as learnt is to bring forward the House resumption from the scheduled Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
Sources close to Lawan were still upbeat, yesterday, insisting that the Police was working on the call logs in its custody, with which they were expected to clear the embattled lawmaker.
Otedola, Chairman of Zenon Petroleum appeared before the Special Task Force constituted by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar at precisely 10.55 a.m. yesterday. He told the panel headed by Commissioner of Police Ali Amodu that Lawan collected $500, 000 in cash and the Secretary of the committee, Boniface Emenalo collected $120, 000 in two installments of $20, 000 and $100, 000 respectively.
The video evidence
He produced a video recording of Lawan collecting the $500,000 in his residence and disclosed that the money in marked notes was provided by the SSS. He also disclosed that Lawan made “desperate” efforts to collect the balance of the money subsequently.
According to Otedola, Lawan said the money was to be distributed to other members of the House of Representatives who could help in suppressing the indictment of Otedola or his companies.
Otedola told the police that the persistent demands by Lawan for the balance of the bribe made on telephone were recorded in audio format. Both the audio and video recordings of the transactions were submitted yesterday.
A source privy to the developments disclosed: ”Farouk put pressure and kept on calling for the balance and when the pressure became unbearable, Otedola said that the two agreed that the balance should be flown in a chartered plane toAbuja. However, on the day the money was to come, Farouk said he would be in plenary and gave Otedola a name and phone number of somebody who would meet him for the money.”
Asked if the Police had recovered the money, a senior officer close to the investigation said yesterday: “First of all, the money was at no time handed over to the Inspector General of Police. Secondly, we have asked Hon. Lawan and the House to hand over the money to us and so far they have refused.
“We are told that the money will be kept as exhibit and only presented in a court of law. The question arising now is when has the House of Representatives become a security agency. What about the fear of tampering with the money, how do we guard against it if the money remains with the House?”
On what the next line of action would be if the House continues to hold on to the $620, 000, the source said, “The IGP who is the one investigating the scandal is currently on official assignment outside the FCT. As soon as he comes back, he will give us directives on what to do and we will take it from there”.
Otedola’s appearance before the Police yesterday was on his own volition Vanguard learnt yesterday. Sources close to him disclosed that Otedola went to the Police to give them the evidence of the alleged bribery following earlier denials put forth by Lawan.
Confusion trails Lawan’s documents
Meanwhile, confusion yesterday trailed the documents put forth by Lawan in which he claimed that he had written the leadership and the Chairman of the House Committee on Anti-Corruption, Adams Jagaba.
He first denounced the claim on Monday night, saying “there is no connection between my committee and the fuel probe committee and I was not given anything please thank you for calling to confirm from me.” Yesterday, he turned hostile as reporters sought clarifications from him.
”I have told you not to call me again on this matter; no comments,”Adamssaid.
Meanwhile shock and disappointment was evident in Lawan’s constituency in Shanono,Kanoyesterday as news of the scandal filtered among the people the embattled Lawan has represented since 1999.
Ali Katako, Commandant Bagwai unit of Askarawan Kwankwasiyya, a group associated with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP noted that the development is self imposed, adding that ”the only regret we seem to be nursing now is that this development has put us on bad light”.
Similarly, the Bagwai PDP council chairman, Alhaji Inuwa Zangina Dangada on his part said “if in the end a prima facie is established against the lawmaker, he should be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
In Shanono Local Government, a stalwart of All Nigerian Peoples Party, Abubakar Usman, revealed that the lack of sympathy for the embattled legislator emanated from his own negligence.
“You only identify with someone that recognizes your existence but go round and find out whether anyone from this town appears to have shown concern on what has befallen a man they can legitimately claim to be one of them.”
He said that Lawan has not impacted on his people, and no traces of his developmental project in any of the two local Government councils that made up the Federal constituency.