After over five months of delay, the federal government has finally agreed to begin the trial of the House of Representatives member, Mr. Farouk Lawan for allegedly demanding and receiving $620,000 dollar bribe.
As the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Probe, Mr Lawal is alleged to have negotiated the sum of $3million as bribe and collected $650,000 from the Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas Limited, Mr. Femi Otedola.
Court details obtained by Channels TV reveal that the embattled lawmaker will now be prosecuted by the Federal Government for receiving bribe, breach of trust and stealing, along with one official of the National Assembly.
Mr. Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) is expected to lead federal government’s legal team.
Already, the leave of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court has been secured by the Federal Government to slam the criminal charges against Farouk at the High Court Four in Maitama.
Although a copy of the criminal charge could not be obtained by Channels TV at press time, it was gathered that all necessary documentary and oral evidence have been sufficiently assembled to facilitate diligent prosecution.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday declared three oil marketers implicated in the fuel subsidy scam wanted.
This was disclosed in a press statement signed by the acting head of media and publicity of the commission, Wilson Uwajuren.
The trio of Abdul Afeez Olarenwaju Olabisi of Fargo Petroleum and Gas Limited, Abubakar Peters Ali Jeldi, managing director of Nadabo Energy Limited and Ikechukwu Onuabuchi Nworgu of Star Inspection Services Nigeria Limited were declared wanted by the Commission for offences various offences including Criminal Conspiracy, Forgery, Obtaining Money by False Pretences and Money Laundering running into several billions of naira.
The statement described the trio as “Olabisi, 31, hails from Kwara State and speaks Yoruba, Hausa and English languages fluently. His last known address is Fargo Petroleum and Gas Limited”.
“Jeldi, 34, is of the Igala stock from Kogi state, North Central Nigeria. He speaks his native Igala, Hausa and English languages fluently. His last known address are 4B Louis Solomon Close, Victoria Island, Lagos and 15 Ogbunike Street , Lekki, Lagos”.
“Nworgu, 46, hails from Abia State . He speaks Igbo and English fluently. His last known address is Star Inspection Services Nigeria Limited, 4A, Lander Close, Off Liverpool Road, Apapa – Lagos .
The statement further said “The trio allegedly obtained billions of naira as subsidy payments from the Petroleum Support Fund under false pretence, and disappeared in the wake of the Commission’s investigation of the subsidy regime”.
“The Commission enjoins anyone having information as to their whereabouts to contact its Enugu, Kano, Lagos, Gombe, Port Harcourt and Abuja offices or through these numbers: 09-4604620, 070-26350721,070-26350722,070-26350723,070-6350724, 070-26350725; or by e-mail to: [email protected] or the nearest Police Station”.
The Federal Government has alleged that oil marketers planning to embark on a nationwide strike action are those who have been indicted by the Aig-Imoukhuede’s report on fuel subsidy payments.
The allegation was made in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Paul C. Nwabiukwu, on Wednesday, which claimed the federal government has stopped paying the indicted oil marketers.
The statement said “it is clear that the strike was instigated mainly by marketers who were indicted by the Aig-Imoukhuede Committee which investigated fuel subsidy payments.”
The statement further said that the federal government has stopped payments of oil marketers that were penciled down for investigation “However, the claims by marketers who have been recommended for further investigation by the Aig-Imoukhuede Presidential Committee have not been paid”.
The statement also called on Nigerians not to be deceived “by their antics”.
It also highlighted the federal government’s zero tolerance to corrupt persons and organisations.
“The Federal Government is determined to ensure that persons and organisations which did the wrong things do not get away with wrong actions and wrong behavior”.
Corroborating the claim, Minister of state for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama said that a total of N42 billion has been paid to 31 one oil marketers as subsidy payments.
“In all, between April and August this year, in respect of 2012 PMS claims, Sovereign Debt Notes amounting to N42.666 billion have been issued to 31 oil marketers”.
The minister was speaking after the monthly Federations Account Allocation Committee meeting in Abuja.
Dr. Ngama said that the intention of the indicted oil marketers is to blackmail government and avoid sanctions on crimes committed.
He further stated that the sum of N522 billion is to be distributed to the Federal, State and Local government areas for the month of July.
More evidence are forthcoming in the alleged bribery scandal involving Honourable Farouk Lawan and the MD/CEO Zenon Oil and Gas over the alleged payment of $620,000 out of the $3million bribe demanded.
The Chairman, House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee on Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan, is alleged to have collected $620,000 as part payment for a $3million bribe, which he demanded from billionaire and oil magnate, in a bid to exonerate his companies from the fuel subsidy probe.
The audio conversation exclusively obtained by Channels Television, started with the MD/CEO Zenon Oil and Gas, Femi Otedola saying he does not want to take the money to his house. “I don’t want to take it to my house; it is a lot of money” he said.
Then the lawmaker replied that he is on his way out and by the time he returns, he will have to head to the chambers of the House of Representatives.
Mr Otedola then asked, if he should reschedule his planned trip to China, but the Honorable Farouk said no and offered to bring in a third person to collect the bribe.
The lawmaker gave the phone numbers 08036513355, naming the person as TJ.
Acknowledging the transaction, Mr Farouk responded affirmatively to Otedola’s remark that if he receives the initial payment, then there will be a balance of $2.5million, saying “that’s right” while he said, he will be calling the third person to ensure the collection of the initial payment.
Below is the purported audio recording:
The conversation verbatim
Otedola: How are you sir? I don’t want to bring it to my house
Lawan: Oh, you would take it to your house
Otedola: No I don’t want to bring it to my house; it is a lot of money
Lawan: err… so where? Because I’m rushing to the… they are at the airport now?
Otedola: Yes they are in the airport in the aircraft
Lawan: Well I can’t come over now and before they can come over now unless I send somebody to but I can’t because…by the time they come I should be…I have a lot of things to do myself
Otedola: Is there anybody you think I can give it to or maybe I should just postpone my trip to China till tomorrow?
Lawan: No, no it’s ok…I’ll arrange it with someone…let me give you his number 080
Otedola: hold on hold on
Otedola: (Repeats number after him)What’s the name?
Lawan: aaarrh… TJ
Lawan: No, Tj
Otedola: OK. So I will give him the balance; that is erm… 2.5 million dollars, yea?
Lawan: that’s right. Hold on. I’m calling him to be sure his phone is on…..
Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, on Tuesday said it would take him just a week to fish out the “thieves” in the House of Representatives subsidy probe report if given the mandate by the Federal Government.
Mr Ribadu stated this at an interactive session with the management and staff of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in Abuja.
“If I were to work on this subsidy, I would just arrest PPPRA officials, and through them I would bring out every single person who took one penny from government. I would get all of them because it is the gatekeeper that has failed so I would not bother myself with anybody else. No one can take money for product he did not supply except if PPPRA allows it,” he said.
Mr Ribadu said public servants benefit more than the oil marketers from the corruption circle in the subsidy regime.
“For every one person outside of government that benefits in this subsidy scam, public servants benefit three times,” he said.
According to him, all the regulatory failures in Nigeria were due to the bad and docile leadership.
The former EFCC helmsman called on the Federal Government to reform the Nigeria Police Force to enable it tackle corruption and insecurity in the country.
“We have destroyed and weakened an institution that is constitutionally assigned the responsibility to enforce law and order internally in this country,’’ Mr Ribadu said, noting that military personnel discharged internal security duties contrary to the provisions in the constitution.
The former presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, who is the Chairman, Special Task Force on Petroleum Revenue, urged the Federal Government to train and retrain the police to enable them to tackle corruption and insecurity in the country.
A renowned Niger Delta activist and founder of Agape Birthright, Annkio Briggs on Monday said that the current bribery allegations against the suspended Chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee that probed the management of the fuel subsidy fund, Farouk Lawan is a ploy by those indicted by the committee to distract Nigerians from the corruption in the oil sector.
The Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas, Femi Otedola blew the whistle that Mr Lawan had demanded $3 million from him in order to remove his company from the list of companies indicted by his committee to have received foreign exchange without using the money for fuel importation. Mr Lawan was alleged to have received $500, 000 part payment while the former Secretary of the committee, Boniface Emenalo allegedly received $120, 000 from the oil merchant.
Mrs Briggs, while responding to questions from the hosts of Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily said the bribery scandal is a set up to make Nigerian look the other way of the subsidy probe report.
A legal practitioner, Idris Faro on Monday said that the argument put forward by the counsel to Farouk Lawan that his client’s voice was doctored in the audio conversation between him and Femi Otedola was doctored.
Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, Mr Faro said that he believes that the audio clip is enough evidence to prosecute Mr Lawan.
“It is left for the prosecution to prove that the voice on the audio conversation is Farouk’s by calling voice experts. I don’t agree that there isn’t enough evidence to charge Honourable Farouk Lawan to court,” he said.
Former Minister of Work, Adeseye Ogunlewe on Monday said that the $3 million bribe allegations involving the suspended Chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee that probed the management of the subsidy fund, Farouk Lawan and the Chairman of Zenon oil and Gas, Femi otedola is not a sting operation.
Mr Ogunlewe was speaking while responding to questions from Channels Television Sunrise Daily’s presenters.
The refusal of Mr Femi Otedola to testify before the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges has unnerved the committee members, claiming the decision was misguided and that no one can dictate to the committee how to carryout its investigation.
The Chairman House of Representatives committee on Ethics, Gambo Dan Musa, described Mr Otedola’s decision not to speak before the committee as misguided, when he addressed a press conference after Otedola’s departure. .
According to the chairman, Mr Otedola refused to say anything to the committee and he claimed the oil mogul was just laughing whilst their short conversation lasted.
“We did all that we could by explaining to him our power under the constitution and under our rules and…..further explained that nobody will dictate how we are going to conduct our meeting, yet Femi Otedola refused to answer questions and he said he could only do so when we do it in public” explained Mr Dan Musa.
“You cannot make an allegation and when you are being asked to substantiate, you now refuse to substantiate.” “What are you hiding” Honourable Dan Musa asked?
“He has told us that we are hiding something that is why we don’t want to do it in public, rather we told him, he is the one hiding something by refusing to talk, by refusing to make a substantiation of his allegations.”
Warning that nobody can dictate to the committee how it should conduct its investigation, the committee chairman added that “we told him the consequences of this but he was not ready to go by our words.”
Adding that he refused to answer all their questions, Mr Dan Musa stated that the oil mogul insulted members of the committee because he was just laughing.
“He refused to say anything and he was just laughing. It was very stupid of him and we are not happy too” he said angrily as other members of the committee on ethics, gave a Yes! chorus one after the other, in response to the name calling.
“We cannot have a committee of this nature, a standing committee, that is respected by the House and somebody comes and tell us that he is a businessman and he is not angry at ourselves” he said.
The chairman noted that the committee will continue to invite other relevant parties involved in the saga and pledged the committee’s commitment saying, “our commitment to do justice should not be in doubt.”
The House of Representatives on Friday suspended the Chairman of it’s ad hoc committee that probed the fuel subsidy and the Chairman of the Committee of Education, Farouk Lawan, over the alleged $3million bribe from billionaire oil magnate Femi Otedola.
The lawmakers also passed a motion to rescind its decision to remove Mr Otedola’s company – Zenon Oil and Gas from the list of companies indicted by the subsidy probe report.
Mr Otedola had accused the embattled lawmaker of demanding $3 million bribe from him in order to omit his company – Zenon Petroleum from the list of companies indicted to have mismanaged the fuel subsidy fund.
According to the oil merchant, Mr Lawan had already collected $500, 000 in two instalments from him while the Secretary of the ad hoc committee, Boniface Emenalo also collected $120, 000 in two instalments.
Mr Otedola claimed that he had video and audio evidences to support his claims that both the lawmaker and the staff of the National Assembly demanded and took bribe from him.
Mr Lawan’s committee had initially listed Zenon Petroleum among oil marketers that bought foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but failed to use the money to import fuel.
According to the initial report, Zenon oil and gas bought $232,975,385.13 worth of forex, but did not import petrol. The report had recommended that Mr Otedola’s company and 14 other marketers that had bought the foreign exchange be referred to the anti-corruption agencies to determine what they used the monies for.
The House of Representatives in its Friday’s emergency session ask the committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate the veracity of the bribery allegations against Mr Lawan.
The House also passed a vote of confidence on the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal and the leadership of the House of Representatives based on a motion moved by Samson Osagie.
Mr Osagie warned against a dangerous trend whereby the executive arm of government will be using security agencies to intimidate elected members of the legislature in order to protect powerful people.
He said the recording of the alleged receipt of the bribe by security agencies was reminiscent of the Watergate scandal under former United States President, Richard Nixon.
He however said that even when a member of the House of Representatives is indicted of corruption, the House is not indicted.
The House also directed its committees on anti-graft agencies to ensure the implementation of the recommendations in the report by the relevant agencies.
In a short speech, the Speaker of the House of Representatives urged Nigerians to continue to support the House and vowed that it would not allow the bribery scandal overshadow the fuel subsidy probe report.
“”We shall never compromise our stand against corruption. May I also ask the executive to match words with action in the implementation of this report.
“As members of the parliament, we enjoy no immunity and seek none,” he said.
After the Speaker’s speech, the House dissolved into a Committee of the Whole chaired by deputy speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, and considered the motion for Synopsis and Zenon to be asked to account for the subsidy funds received by them.
After considering the report, it reverted to plenary and adopted the report.
Mr Ihedioha said the implication of the resolution is that the House has asked the anti-graft agencies to investigate Synopsis and Zenon for collecting the said subsidy funds and failing to utilise them as required.
A new chairman, John Enoh (PDP, Obubra, Cross River) was appointed to replace Mr Lawan as the new Chairman of the fuel subsidy probe panel.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke has assured Nigerians that he will prosecute all those who are found culpable in the subsidy report made available to the presidency.
Mr Adoke, who disclosed this while speaking at the presidential villa after receiving the report from the presidency, said he is taking the report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He however reiterated his earlier position that the cases will be properly investigated, to ensure that all loose ends are covered.
He said that the assignment will be carried out without sentiments and that whosoever is found culpable will be arraigned before a court of law. He said that there will be no sacred cow and that government will not witch hunt anybody.
The House of Representatives ad Hoc Committee that conducted an investigative hearing on the management of the fuel subsidy fund recommended that some oil marketers and officials of both the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) be investigated and prosecuted by anti-graft agencies.
According to the report, those to be probed by anti-graft agencies are 121 oil marketers as follows:
1. 17 marketers that did not obtain FOREX but claimed to have imported petroleum products.
2. 15 marketers who obtained FOREX but did not import petroleum products.
3. 71 oil marketers to face probe and refund N230.1billion
4. 18 oil marketers committed other infractions.
Other issues for probe by the EFCC are:
How 3.171billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) got missing. The 3.171 litres of PMS allegedly subsidised were not supplied to the Nigerian market.
Ex-PPPRA Executive Secretaries A. Ibikunle (August 2009 to February 2011) and Goddy Egbuji (February to August 2011) for further probe and trial.
Others are PPPRA’s GM Field Services, ACDO/Supervisor-Ullage Team 1 and ACDO/Supervisor-Ullage Team 2.
Ex-PPPRA Chairman Ahmadu Ali and board members reprimanded.
NNPC should be probed to determine solvency.
Those indicted in NNPC management and board between 2009 and 2011 should be prosecuted.
The report said: “The Committee identified that the marketers were often awarded superfluous quantities of products to supply but often did not meet the target.
“In 2009, PPPRA approved a supply of 11,341,507,500 litres of PMS for the marketers. However PPPRA confirmed the marketers discharged only 5,085, 206, 983 litres or 55.16 per cent under-discharge.
“Despite being aware of the under-performance by the marketers in 2009 or the defect in its procurement process and management, PPPRA increased the 2010 Approved Deliverables to 12,410,955, 000 litres. The marketers delivered only 6,226,586,543 that is 49.8 per cent under performance. In spite of the underperformance, there were no crises of product availability throughout 2011.
“This same ugly trend was maintained by PPPRA in 2011 during which it increased its approved quantity to 13,589,510,000 litres but however confirmed a delivery of 9,317,145,231 litres, an under performance by 31.4 per cent.
“(i) By PPPRA’s representation, the marketers received N680.982billion as subsidy for supplying 9,317,145,275 litres of PMS in 2011.
(ii)Curiously, PPPRA made another presentation that the marketers were paid N975.896billion for supplying 12,488,789,611 litres of PMS in 2011.
“Between (i) and (ii) above, PPPRA has confirmed that the sum of N294, 914billion was paid on 3,171,644,336 litres of PMS that might not have been supplied to the Nigerian market.
“The anomaly is hereby referred to the relevant anti-corruption agencies for further investigation.”
The Save Nigeria Group (SNG) on Monday said that it has decided to stay action on its threat to organise a nationwide public protest over what it described as the Federal Government reluctance to prosecute those indicted in the subsidy probe report.
The group had last two weeks threatened a mass action if the federal government did not act speedily to prosecute all those indicted in the report.
However, following an assurance from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that it would act on the report and bring all those indicted to justice, the SNG in a press conference in Lagos said it was given the commission the benefit of doubt to act within a time frame.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has issued a statement acknowledging receipt of the House Report with a promise to prosecute those indicted after it has done its own investigations. The EFCC’s argument seems plausible to the extent that it is not intended to pursue the agenda of an executive arm that is enmeshed in scandals and would prefer the nation forgets and moves on,” text of the press conference reads in part.
The group stopped short of issuing a deadline within which it expects to see action.
The group also says it has filed a suit at a federal high court in Lagos seeking a legal pronouncement on budget overspend and declaration that the federal government violated the law in spending beyond budgetary provisions.
More action less talk
The group called on the government to take action on the report rather than release statements to the public describing the comment credited to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello-Adoke as ‘doublespeak’ and delay tactics.
Mr Bello-Adoke had last week called the report of the House of Representative ad hoc committee that probed the management of the fuel subsidy fund as mere ‘fact finding’ document.
“The AGF’s statement is doublespeak, which is at best a tactic to delay justice and at worst a ploy to deny justice by lulling the nation into forgetfulness,” the statement reads.
The group listed the some examples which it used to illustrate that the AGF’s position is untenable: “i. The aviation sector probe was still in session when Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and Prof. Babalola Borisade (former Aviation Ministers) were arrested and charged to court;
ii. It took just an allegation of bribery by the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the Herman Hembe Committee for the House to disband the committee and set up a new panel. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has gone ahead to obtain a court order to prosecute Hon. Hembe and his deputy Azubuogu Ifeanyi while the new panel is still sitting;
iii. The accounting firms of Akintola Williams & Co and Olusola Adekanola & Co were fired by the Ministry of Finance before the House adopted the report. What were the “further investigations” conducted on the “fact-finding” report of the House before these firms were punished?”
Click here to read the full text of the SNG press conference.
Our previous report
Group to begin another subsidy protest in 24 hours
Despite assurances by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to prosecute those indicted in the report by the House of Representatives’ ad-hoc subsidy regime, the convener of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Pastor Tunde Bakare, says the two week ultimatum to go on demonstration stands.
Speaking with our political correspondent, Deji Bademosi, on the programme ‘Politics today’, Pastor Bakare says in less than 24 hours, the group will carry out its threat.
He calls the moves taken so far by the government as “sandy steps” and we demand “concrete steps”.
The Attonery-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, had recently stated that the federal government is yet to carry any action on the report by the House of Representatives committee on fuel subsidy management, saying the report by the ad-hoc committee is a fact-finding mission and that the reports will be forwarded to the necessary agencies for investigation and necessary actions.
Mr Bakare recalled that during a probe into the aviation sector, it took the government no time before a suit was filed against the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode. “They didn’t consider the probe a fact finding mission” he said.
He also added that it took just a mere allegation by the Director-General of the Security and Excahnge Commission (SEC) against the chairman House of Representative committee on the capital market, Rep. Hernan Hermbe, before the committee was disbanded and the EFCC is already investigating Mr Hermbe.