Otedola wants bribery video made public
Presidency denies link, House decides lawmaker’s fate today
Lawmakers meet today, Braithwaite doubts probe’s integrity
PRE-EMPTING a joint security move to launch a hunt for him owing to his failure to submit himself for interrogation by the police, Farouk Lawan, a major player in the bribery saga over the probe into the management of oil subsidy, yesterday surrendered himself at the Police Headquarters in Abuja.
Earlier in the day, the police had planned to track him down through a joint operation comprising the State Security Service (SSS) and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) after the emergency session of the House of Representatives, which holds this morning.
At the time of filing this report, Lawan was being grilled by the police and he was still writing his statement. Indications emerged yesterday that he might be released for him to appear at the House of Representatives deliberations on the saga today.
The other key player in the bribery affair, Femi Otedola, is angry at the insinuation that he framed Lawan and that he (Otedola) is just as guilty. He believes the failure of the police and the SSS to make public the video recording he gave them is causing him a lot of damage. He is said to have approached a lawyer to seek an order compelling the SSS to publish the audio and video recording to show who did what and when. He wants the case handled on merit and not on sentiments.
Piqued by the bribery allegation, frontline politician and former presidential candidate of the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), Dr Tunji Braithwaite, has described the probe as lacking in credibility.
Speaking as the guest of honour at a lecture titled “Democracy, Good Governance and Development in Nigeria since 1999,” organized by the University of Lagos’ Department of Sociology yesterday, Braithwaite noted that while there had been a total absence of infrastructure to support basic living standard in the country, corrupt politicians had continued to pauperise the people.
He said: “The figures thrown up by the ad hoc committee as having been stolen were not in billion but trillions of national and foreign currencies. Despite the billions successive corrupt Nigerian governments claimed to have spent to provide amenities like electricity, there is hardly anything to justify the huge expenditure. The country remains largely in darkness. This is but only one of the many travails induced and inflicted by corruption.”
Expressing hopelessness in the outcome of the probe, he said: “If such a weak probe could throw up such horror, what would a thorough investigation and probe throw up? How much worse could a cruel and evil cabal in power get?”
Braithwaite also condemned the University of Lagos’ change of name by President Goodluck Jonathan “without consultation,” describing the action as a penchant for stirring the hornet’s nest.
He stated: “I recall the thoughtless timing of the painful burdening of the Nigerian people, by his so-called subsidy removal from petrol price, resulting in over 100 per cent hike in the price of petrol in one fell swoop on the first day of the year 2012, exactly a week after the Christmas Day terrorist attacks of Boko Haram on Christians in Abuja, killing innocent souls and injuring hundreds of others. Here we are now with another insensitive and dubious national gift.”
It was learnt yesterday that over half of the 360 members of the House of Representatives have endorsed the suspension of Lawan.
At a crucial meeting allegedly held at the residence of a prominent principal officer of the House in Abuja yesterday afternoon, it was learnt that more lawmakers had joined in the demand for the suspension of Lawan pending the outcome of an independent investigation that might be conducted by the House on the matter.
According to some lawmakers who volunteered information regarding decisions arrived at in the meeting, those canvassing the suspension of Lawan were swelling in number by the day and they cut across the six geo-political zones in the country.
The Guardian learnt that having waited for Lawan for two days without his appearance, security agencies have resolved that the best way to track him down is to put up surveillance around the National assembly with a view to getting the lawmaker to appear before the police who have begun investigation into the matter and are waiting for him to give his own version of the allegation.
It was also learnt that the police do not want to dramatise the issue by declaring him wanted because of the chain reaction such approach might generate. A source told The Guardian that “considering the calibre of people we dealing with in this case, we do not want a situation where people will begin to read a different meaning into the matter.”
According to another source, since Lawan cannot be arrested within the precincts of the National Assembly because no court of law has pronounced him guilty, the only way is to wait for him until after the session and get him outside the premises of the National Assembly.
Another option being contemplated is that it is likely the House of Representatives suspend him pending the outcome of an investigation that would be carried out with a view to getting to the root of the matter. If this works out, it is hoped that Lawan might be arrested immediately after the session.
At the Force Headquarters, expectations were high yesterday that Lawan would appear to face the Special Task Force headed by Ali Amodu, a Commissioner of Police (CP).
Amodu was sighted moving in and out of the office of the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, obviously to keep him updated on the matter.
Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, told The Guardian yesterday that the police would carry out a thorough investigation and assured that the outcome would be known to everybody.
Lawan and other members of his panel will know their fate today during the emergency plenary session called by the leadership of the chamber.
There have been more allegations that about N11 billion was collected in bribe from oil marketers during the probe, and shared among members of the committee, a development that has further angered members of the House.
Lawan had run into stormy waters following the public disclosure by Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas Limited, Otedola that he demanded a bribe of $3 million, and collected $620,000 out of the sum.
Top on the options of the lawmakers is whether to disband the subsidy probe ad-hoc committee, suspend Lawan, and relieve him of the Chairmanship of the Education Committee of the House. He and members of the committee would subsequently be investigated by the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the House.
It was learnt yesterday that a motion to the effect that disciplinary steps be taken against Lawan and other members of the committee has already been drawn up. But a member of the chamber who does not want his name in print ruled out the option of suspension, as according to him, such a move would amount to pronouncing him guilty before any investigation is carried out.
The member also noted that the House would still insist on the full implementation of the ad-hoc committee’s report by the Executive arm. “You do not throw the baby with the bath water for whatever reason,” he said while declining further comments on the matter.
On its part, the Presidency yesterday described as “lame and diversionary” reports in some newspapers (The Guardian not included), which linked the person and office of the President into the bribery scandal involving Lawan and Otedola.
Stating that the reports are “totally false and baseless”, the Presidency said that neither President Goodluck Jonathan, nor anyone around him had any direct or indirect role in what is unfolding in the House of Representatives, adding that the attempt to drag the Presidency into the matter “is entirely speculative and without factual foundation.”
In a statement by Presidential spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, the Presidency therefore urged the media to allow members of the House and law enforcement agencies to conduct and conclude investigations “without further unhelpful distractions.”
“Recent developments notwithstanding, President Jonathan’s directive to the Attorney-General of the Federation on the report of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, as adopted by the House of Representatives, subsists and he fully expects that all those indicted in the report will be duly investigated and prosecuted if a prima facie case is established against them, “ the statement noted.
Also, former Second Republic Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, yesterday asked Lawan to quit the lower legislative chamber.
Mohammed who incidentally is from Kano, in an interview with The Guardian noted that the call was based on the fact that the honour and integrity of the embattled lawmaker had not only been damaged, the development was capable of reducing the House to a laughing stock if Lawan remained in the House.
Mohammed who is the National Chairman of the People’s Salvation Party (PSP) called on members of the House to take stiffer measures against Lawan who represents Bagwai/shanono Federal Constituency of Kano State.