By Yusuf Alli and Dele Anofi, Abuja
WHERE is the $620,000 bribe businessman Femi Otedola gave the suspended Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management, Mallam Farouk Lawan ?
The question remained as knotty as ever yesterday, with the Chairman of the House Committee on Narcotics, Drugs and Financial Crimes, Mr. Adam Jagaba, denying having the cash. Lawan has refused to surrendered the money, saying it is his proof that Otedola bribed him against his wish.
Otedola said Lawan mounted pressure on him to part with the “marked” cash.
The mystery may be resolved in court, going by legal advice given Lawan. He is believed to have been advised against surrendering the cash to the police to avoid it being tampered with.
It was learnt that lawyers prefer Lawan producing the dollar bills only at the discretion of a court.
Although Lawan is expected to report to the police today, he may not produce the bribe sum.
A defence team source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are actually preparing for the court battle. Whoever is in custody of the alleged bribe cash can only produce it based on the order of a competent court.
“The way the police are desperate to retrieve the money suggests a suspicious motive and it will be proper for Lawan to be protected by a court rather than by any security agency.
“In fact, we have other issues surrounding the investigation by the police, which ought to be addressed in court.
“But we decided not to take any precipitate action that will suggest that Lawan has something to hide or to give room for any excuse that he is trying to cover up his track. We are set for the worst case scenario.”
Jagaba, in a document obtained by The Nation, affirmed that he was not in possession of the cash.
Jagaba wrote: “I wish to categorically and unequivocally state that there was never a time I was in possession of the sum of $620,000 or any other exhibit (in my personal capacity or official capacity as Chairman House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes) relating to the subject matter of the above investigation.
“I hope this explanation lays to rest once and for all the claims that I or my Committee is in possession of the sum of $620,000 purportedly given as bribe to the ad hoc Committee on Monitoring of fuel subsidy regime.”
It was gathered that the letter was sent to Speaker Aminu Tambuwal by Commissioner of Police Ali Amodu who is leading the investigation.
On receiving the Police request, the Speaker forwarded it to Jagaba who, Lawan alleged, he gave the money to keep.
The letter forwarded to Jagaba on June 19 urged him to cooperate and act urgently.
It was signed by the Speaker’s Special Adviser (Legal and Legislative), Chille Igbawua.
The Police letter, dated June 15, signed by CP Ali Amodu is entitled: Re: Investigation activities: Request for handling over exhibits in connection with a case of criminal conspiracy and taking gratification to pervert the cause of justice reads:
“ In furtherance of investigation into the above case involving Hon. Farouk Lawan and his Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring of the URL subsidy regime, the Hon. Speaker is kindly requested to avail this office with the following exhibits:
“ The sum of $620,000 which Hon. Farouk Lawan admitted to have collected from a marketer and handed over to the House Committee on Financial Crimes and Anti-corruption.
“Any other material evidence that may be of use to this investigation”.
But a source said: “You will recall that Lawan admitted that he allegedly reported the matter to Jagaba alongside the bribe sum for onward transmission to the anti-graft agency.
“But the money was later retrieved from Jagaba by some people. So, it will be right for Jagaba to say that the bribe sum is no longer with him.”
It was learnt that Speaker Tambuwal has not received a letter from the police inviting any member of the House in connection with the bribery.
A high-ranking member of the House said: “The Speaker has not received any letter from the Special Task Force of the Police inviting members of the Ad Hoc Committee for interaction. If he gets it, he will read it on the floor of the House.
“What I know is that the Ad Hoc Committee is trying to conclude its work within two weeks. The House is determined to put the oil subsidy probe behind it.”
A police source, however, added: “We are still going ahead with our investigation. It is too hasty for anyone to conclude that Lawan will not honour the undertaking he signed with the police.
“We all know the consequence of entering into an undertaking without honouring it. He assured us that he will facilitate the appearance of Jagaba before us.”
On the fate of two policemen, who smuggled Lawan out from detention cell on Friday night to go home to take his bath, the source said: “They are still in detention because they have violated the service rules. The offence is considered grievous, such that none of their relations is allowed to see them.
“I think they might soon face Orderly Room Trial, which is like being Court Martial in the Nigerian Army.”
It was gathered that a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Peter Gana, was on Monday at the Force CID in Area 10, where Lawan was detained, for a “wake up” call visit.
The source said: “The DIG read the Riot Act to officers and men. He asked them to sit up or face the consequence.”
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