Lawmakers in the House of Representatives will on Friday (tomorrow) hold an emergency session to take a position on the simmering $3m bribery scandal involving Farouk Lawan, the man heading the Houseâs fuel subsidy probe panel.
The Chairman of Zenon Oil, Mr. Femi Otedola, had accused Lawan of soliciting for a bribe of $3m to remove his firm from the list of companies indicted by the panel.
The scandal, which broke last week, is fast spreading. Only on Wednesday, The PUNCH in a exclusive story reported that police were investigating a fresh allegation that some oil marketing firms paid another N11bn in bribes to some Representatives.
The two-paragraph notice of the emergency session as sent by the Clerk of the House, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, reads, âThis is to inform all Honourable members of the House of Representatives that the House would reconvene to hold a Plenary session on Friday June 15th, 2012 at 10am prompt.
âHonourable members are advised to take note and attend promptly, please.â
While the notice did not specify agenda for the emergency session of the lawmakers, a source privy to deliberations at the meeting informed our correspondent that the session was called because lawmakers were demanding âurgent and faster response before this problem gets very messy.â
Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, was said to have been under âintenseâ pressure by members who argued that an emergency sesssion was needed for the Representatives to take a position on the raging bribery scandal before it was too late.
Tambuwal reportedly succumbed finally to the demand for an emergency session at a meeting on Wednesday morning where Sani-Omolori was directed to issue the notice of the emergency meeting of the lawmakers .
learnt that the lawmakers were unable to wait till their Tuesday, June 19, scheduled resumption date from break because most of them feared that the bribery scandal could get out of hand before then.
Just on Tuesday, spokesman for the lawmakers, Zakari Muhammed, had insisted that the House would not discuss the Lawan matter till resumption next Tuesday.
Our correspondent learnt also that Lawan would be forced to step down from his headship of the subsidy management probe committee, the work of which had been eclipsed by the raging bribery allegation.
A high ranking House member told our correspondent on Wednesday that it would be risky to wait till next Tuesday before âsomething is done to rescue the integrity of the House.â
âThere are more allegations now; today we heard that the panel members reportedly demanded or received N11bn as bribes from some marketers. Then, there is the ongoing $3m allegation.
âWe donât know what may come up tomorrowâ, the lawmaker confided in The PUNCH in Abuja.
Another lawmaker who chairs one of the âpowerfulâ committees of the House said, âThe position of our colleagues is that we need to act fast. Yes, we wanted to remain on break till Tuesday next week. We didnât think initially that this matter warranted calling off our break, but the scandal became unbearable.
âDelaying till next week without acting will create room for endless speculation and more allegations. So, on Friday, we shall take a clear stance on the matter and commit it to investigation; all allegations will be referred for investigation.â
The lawmaker added, âMembers may not be favourably disposed to his (Lawan)holding any post in the House in the light of the allegations against him and the ad hoc committee on fuel subsidy.
âWe need to conduct an unfettered investigation.â
However, the fresh allegation of a N11bn bribe enraged some lawmakers on Wednesday.
Our correspondent reports that more lawmakers may be probed in order to identify those who shared the bribes.
One lawmaker exclaimed, âAah! These things ($3m and N11bn) will swallow a lot of people.
âMany people will go down because it is not possible that only eight members of an ad hoc committee shared N11bn.
âYou see, I warned the committee members to be careful but it appeared they didnât listen.â
also gathered that lawmakers were raising fresh questions over how the proceedings of the House on April 18 were conducted.
It was the day the House began the consideration of the fuel subsidy probe report.
Recommendation 29 on the report listed 15 firms, which the panel said took FOREX for the purpose of importing petrol, but failed to use the money as planned.
It recommended that the firms should refund the money and to be prosecuted by anti-graft agencies.
Zenon Oil was listed as number five on the list. Another company, Synopsis, was listed as number six.
The session where the report was considered was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha.
Lawmakers recalled that when the House got to recommendation 29, Ihedioha slowed down and beckoned to Lawan to raise what he had earlier discussed with him that he would inform the House about the recommendation.
Lawan stood up and told the House that his committee received âadditional informationâ proving that Zenon Oil did not benefit from FOREX.
He applied that Zenon should be removed from the list and the House adopted the amendment.