Founder of Zenon Oil, Femi Otedola, has again testified in the case of alleged fraud involving a former member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan.
Otedola, who appeared before Justice Angela Otakula of the Federal Capital Territory High Court on Tuesday, explained that the Department of State Service (DSS) gave him the sum of $500,000 to set up the former lawmaker.
Mr Lawan is being accused of demanding a sum of three million dollars from Mr Otedola to remove his firm, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, from the list of oil companies allegedly involved in the fuel subsidy fraud in 2012.
According to Otedola, the accused had indicted his company in the alleged fraud and demanded the sum to exonerate him.
At a previous hearing, he had explained that after the initial deposit of $500,000 was paid into his account, Lawan declared Zenon Oil and Gas free of the initial indictment.
He also explained that the money was given under the supervision of the DSS.
The defense counsel, Mike Ozekhome, questioned Otedola’s account saying Lawan ought to have been apprehended immediately he was caught.
The judge, however, adjourned the matter till March 8 to continue the cross-examination of the prosecution witness.
The founder of Zenon Oil, Mr Femi Otedola on Wednesday appeared before a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court to testify in the trial of a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr Farouk Lawan for alleged fraud.
Otedola who is a prosecution witness in the trial was allegedly pressured by Mr Lawan to part with a three-million-dollar bribe while Lawan was chairing a subcommittee investigating a multi-billion-dollar fraud associated with government fuel subsidy during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He (Otedola) entered the witness box after he was introduced by the prosecution counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo after which a video where Mr Lawan was seen receiving $500 000 from the Zenon oil boss, was played.
According to Otedola, the accused had indicted his company in the alleged fraud and demanded three million dollars to exonerate him.
He added that after the initial deposit of $500,000 was paid into his account, Lawan declared Zenon Oil and Gas free of the initial indictment.
When asked by the prosecution counsel about the claim by Lawan that the witness forced him to take the money, Otedola denied it.
Otedola also denied a claim by Lawan that Zenon Oil and Gas was exonerated on the basis of documents later provided by the company.
The defence counsel was, however, unable to cross-examine Otedola as he requested for an adjournment to enable his principal to attend the next trial and conduct the cross-examination.
Lawan was first arraigned in February 2013 along with another accused, Boniface Emenalo, for allegedly receiving $620,000 of the alleged bribe from Otedola and his company.
The Chairman of the House Of Representatives Committee on Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Adams Jagaba, has denied any connection with the alleged $620,000 bribe which the then Chairman of the House’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan, was said to have received from billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola, in 2012.
At the resumed trial of Farouk Lawan in Abuja, Jagaba denied claims by Lawan that he handed over the alleged bribe received from Otedola to him with a covering.
Lawan was accused of accepting the bribe in exchange for the removal of Otedola’s company’s name, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, from the list of firms indicted by the house committee for allegedly abusing the fuel subsidy regime in 2012.
Although the prosecutor was unavailable for comments, lawyer to Lawan faulted the decision of the court to refuse his application seeking to recall a witness for further cross-examination.
Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory High Court has struck out the case against the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan, and its Secretary, Boniface Emenalo.
Justice Banjoko explained that she had no interest in continuing with the case and would return it to the Chief Judge of the FCT for reassignment to another judge.
At the last adjourned date, counsel to Lawan, Mr Mike Ozekhome, had applied that the case be returned to the Chief Judge of the FCT for hearing and determination, since his client wasn’t satisfied with the attitude of the judge to his case.
The prosecution counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, did not object to the case being struck out.
Farouk Lawan and Boniface Emenalo had been standing trial for allegedly obtaining $620,000 bribe from an oil magnet, Femi Otedola.
A Court of Appeal in Abuja has thrown out, for want of merit, the application by two members of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan and Boniface Emenalo, to dismiss bribery charges against them on grounds of insufficient evidence.
The court, ruling on the separate applications, said that the two lawmakers had cases to answer, as there was sufficient evidence linking them to the charges against them.
The court ordered the lawmakers to face trial at the lower court with an order that the matters be decided expeditiously.
Farouk Lawan and Boniface Emenalo, erstwhile Chairman and Secretary of a House committee, were accused of demanding and collecting $620, 000 bribe from an oil magnate, Femi Otedola, to remove his company from the list of those found wanting during the probe into petrol subsidy fraud.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, ICPC, which filed the charges against the lawmakers, said that they violated the provisions of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission Act.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, VistaJet International, Evergreen Aviation Terminal, operators of private Jets and the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria, FAAN have been written by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.
The letters dated March 26 and signed by the Chairman of the committee, Samuel Adeola, signifies the heightened preparations for the probe of the chartered private jets which is said to be costing the country billions of Naira.
The Minister is expected to tender a written submission within one week of “all she knows about the transactions, and if as a Minister she is entitled to such chartered private jets for private use, and whether or not she has not breached public service rules, as well as who is responsible for the bills.”
Other necessary information that would aid the Committee in the investigation is also to be forwarded by the Minister.
On its part, the GMD NNPC is to forward in written form to the lawmakers “all information relating to the deal from 2011 till date, the level of involvement of the Corporation, the contractual agreement between the Corporation and the operators of the private jets and its financial commitment to it since 2011 till date among others,” a source close to the committee said.
The Committee is requesting from the private jets operators “the contract agreements between them and the NNPC from 2011 till date, all the flight schedules, the passengers’ manifests from 2011 till date and the amount of money paid to them during the period under review,” the source added.
The probe into the controversial operation of chartered private jets for private use for local and foreign trips by Mrs Diezeani Alison-Madueke was sequel to a motion brought before the House on the matter by a member, Samuel Adejare (APC, Lagos).
One of the aspects that the Reps Committee is interested in getting answers to is why there was no valid contract agreement between the NNPC/Petroleum Resources Ministry and the Private Jets operators for the lease of the 850 challenger Aircraft which was allegedly extensively used by the Minister.
The tendering of memoranda by stakeholders would be followed by the adoption of a date for the public hearing on the matter, in line with the resolution of the House, it was learnt on Wednesday.
Several new flight schedules operated on foreign trips by the Minister between 2012 and 2013 has also been uncovered by the Public Accounts committee.
The new discovery, involving Global Express XRS with tail number S5-GMG and tail number OE-LGX,OE-LSS and OE-INA allegedly cost $300,000 (about N50m) per trip, way above an estimated cost of N7.5million for the same trip.
A December 21, 2012 trip from the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja to the United Kingdom with the Global Express XRS with the tail number: OE-LGX gulped N57.5million as against an estimated N6million, it was also alleged.
A representative of the Crusade for Justice, Richard Nwankwo, believes that the reports of corruption in the Nigerian oil sector and the abuse of funds levelled against the Petroleum Minister are products of corruption in the entire Nigerian system.
Speaking on Channels Television, he said that there was a bazaar going on in Abuja, as “there have been several instances of massive corruption.”
The House of Representatives had mandated its committee on public accounts, to probe the alleged reckless spending of over N10 billion by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Deziani Allison-Madueke for air charter services, and Mr Nwankwo refused to take them serious.
He said that the National Assembly itself lacked the moral justification to investigate corruption when they are also corrupt. He cited the $620, 000 bribery scandal still hanging on the neck of a member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, as one of those that disqualifies the National Assembly from investigating the NNPC or the alleged abuse of funds by Mrs Allison-Madueke.
When reminded that some of the cases involving the lawmakers were still in court, the legal practitioner said that this was no guarantee that the House was seeking true justice, considering how long the cases have been lingering without signs of being close to its conclusion.
He expressed belief that if indeed Nigeria wishes to truly fight corruption; all corruption cases must be tried on a day-today basis and brought to conclusion without the usual unjustifiable delays. He feared that all those cases in court, involving lawmakers would not be concluded before the election and they would be forgotten.
“There are a lot of latter day born again activists in the National Assembly”, he said, adding that but none of them has ever come out to tell Nigerians how much they were earning, let alone admit that these monies were too much, despite complaints that they were consuming too much of the country’s resources.
Nwankwo advised that Nigerians cannot afford to look at agencies like the NNPC or the Petroleum Ministry in isolation. He insisted that there is an existing culture of corruption, explaining that the system has a structure of how they do things which has been customary in the mentality of the people within the system.
He said that the system of operation within the NNPC has been the same way for decades, as it has become their in-house style, and to fight it, there has to be a strong political will.
He said, “If you are operating within the confines of these institutions, you must be above board” and once the National Assembly is guilty of some of the corruption allegations against the Minister and the NNPC, they cannot tackle the issue.
The National Assembly was said to have acknowledged that the NNPC has a right to use a private aircraft, and Nwankwo would not oppose this, but he said that allegations of ‘Waste of Resources on the Arbitrary Charter and Maintenance of a Challenger 850 Aircraft for Non-Official Use’ against the Minister of Petroleum are indeed cases of corruption, which should be taken up.
He noted, “A leader must be forensic and result minded.”
An Abuja High Court has dismissed the application to quash bribery charges filed against former chairman of the House of Representatives on Fuel Subsidy scam, Farouk Lawan, and the committee’s secretary Boniface Emenalo, over the receipt of $620,000 bribe from oil mogul; Femi Otedola.
Presiding Judge; Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi on Friday, rejected the application in favor of the prosecution, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offenses Commission, ICPC, on the three grounds.
The court ruled that it has jurisdiction, as there is evidence of crime against the defendants and that the charges are not an abuse of court process.
Counsel to the lawmakers said he would consult with his clients before deciding on appeal.
The two lawmakers were accused of demanding and collecting $620, 000 bribe from Mr Otedola, to remove the name of his companies from the list of companies culpable in fuel subsidy fraud.
The House of Representatives has explained that the removal of Mr. Farouk Lawan as the chairman of the House committee on education was not to confirm his alleged involvement in a bribery scam but to allow the committee operate optimally while the case is being handled in the court.
Briefing correspondents, spokesman of the House, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, however, raised concerns that out of the two parties alleged to have participated in the bribery incident, only one has been arrested and charged to court while the other walks around free.
Mr. Lawan was allegedly nailed for bribery by the Chairman of Zenon Gas and Oil, Femi Otedola who claimed that he blew the whistle on the former chairman of the House Commitee on Fuel Subsidy Probe, alleging that he requested the sum of $3 million to remove the name of his (Otedola’s) company from the list of indicted companies in the subsidy probe.
Mr. Otedola claimed it was a sting operation involving the State Security Service. He also claimed there was a video evidence to prove that Mr. Lawan collected part of the agreed sum.
The Federal Capital Territory high court, Abuja has granted bail to the former chairman of the House Ad- Hoc committee that investigated the fuel subsidy fraud, Farouk Lawan as well as the secretary of the committee, Boniface Emenalo.
Both men were granted bail at N10 million each and are also expected to provide two sureties each.
The presiding judge, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi also asked the lawmakers to deposit their travel documents with the court registrar.
Messrs. Lawan and Emenalo were arraigned by the police on a seven-count charge of corruptly soliciting bribe of $3 million (N450 million) from an independent oil marketer, Mr. Femi Otedola.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice told the court that the two officers of the National Assembly actually collected about a quarter of the sum from the oil dealer.
The bribe was allegedly to ensure that Mr. Otedola’s company – Zenon Oil and Gas – was removed from the list of indicted oil marketers in the infamous fuel subsidy scam.
Trial has been set for the 10th and 17th of April.
The House of Representatives on Thursday constituted a 23-member Special ad-hoc Committee to carry on further legislative work on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The committee comprises of all the House Committees Chairmen and their Deputies and will be chaired by the Chief whip of the house, Ishaka Bawa, (PDP-Taraba) while Samson Osagie (ACN-Edo) will act as his deputy.
The special committee was constituted following a successful debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which eventually passed through to second reading.
The bill seeks to establish a legal, fiscal and regulatory framework for the Petroleum industry in Nigeria.
The debate on the general principles of the bill started on Nov. 14 and the house had allotted two days for the debate of the PIB.
Continuing debate on the bill which started on Wednesday, the Deputy House Leader, Leo Ogor, (PDP-Delta), urged the house to consider the bill, saying that the passage of the PIB would improve operations of the oil sector.
“Let us give Nigerians a bill that will improve on the oil sector,” Mr Ogor said.
Both the Deputy Minority Whip, Garba Datti (CPC-Kaduna) and Fort Dike (PDP-Anambra), said that the bill vested enormous power on the Minister of Petroleum, needed to be looked into.
Mr Dike also criticised the inclusion of the petroleum host community fund in the bill.
He urged the house to also address the issue of gas in Nigeria, saying: “gas in Nigeria has been left largely unexplored, this bill needs to accommodate that issue’’.
Farouk Lawan (PDP-Kano) said that the PIB was one bill that would “have far reaching implication on the Nigeria economy.
“The PIB would ensure that business is concluded based on international best practices. The PIB deserves to pass through the second reading,’’ Mr Lawan said.
There was no dissenting voice and the bill sailed through the second reading after being put to vote by the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal.
Mr Tambuwal commended the members of the House for their patriotic debate, urging them to continue to put the interest of the nation above other interest.
Meanwhile, a 23-member Special Ad-hoc Committee has been constituted to carry on further legislative work on the bill.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned another oil marketer, Rowaye Jubril before the Lagos state high court sitting in Ikeja over an alleged N963.7 million fuel subsidy fraud.
Jubril, alongside his company, Brila Energy limited, was arraigned on a 13-count charge bordering on obtaining money by false pretence, forgery and alteration of document.
Reading the charge, counsel to the anti-graft commission, Mr. Seidu Atteh alleged that the defendants had between October 2010 and May 2011 in Lagos fraudulently obtained the sum of N963.7 million from the petroleum support fund for a purported importation of 17.3 million litres of premium motor spirit (PMS).
Jubril, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges and Justice Okunnu in a ruling on the bail application granted him bail in the sum of N75 million with two sureties in like sum.
He is also to deposit his international passport and other travelling documents in the court and must not travel without the court’s permission.
The matter was adjourned to January 23, 2013 for trial.
Meanwhile, the trial of Mahmud Tukur, son of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and three others accused of n1.8 billion fuel subsidy fraud has been adjourned to December 13.
Tukur is being prosecuted alongside Abdullahi Alao, Ochonogor Alex and Eternal Oil and Gas plc. before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of a Lagos high court.