03 July 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA — NIGERIA’s House of Representatives may order the arrest of oil magnate, Mr Femi Otedola, if he fails to appear before the lower chamber’s committee on Ethics and Priviledges today.
The committee was directed by the House to investigate the $620,000 bribe allegedly given to Mr Farouk Lawan by Otedola to clear his company from the list of those that got foreign exchange allocation from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for the purpose of importing petroleum products but failed to do so. Lawan was the chairman of the ad-hoc committee that probed the petroleum subsidy payments scam.
Police Special Task Force, STF, is currently investigating the alleged bribe, which Lawan admitted collecting but which he said was meant to be used as an exhibit against the businessman. The Ethics and Privileges committee led by Gambo Musa, last week, grilled Lawan for four hours on the bribe-for clearance allegation. It ordered Otedola to appear before it today.
However, the oil magnate, Monday, approached the Federal High Court over the House’s summon. Nevertheless, a member of the House panel who spoke on condition of anonymity disclosed that the committee would order the arrest of the Chairman of Zenon Petroleum if he fails to honour their invitation.
Said he: “We believe that Otedola will honour the invitation, but if he fails to appear before the committee between now and Friday, we will place a warrant of arrest on him.
“We learnt that he has gone to court over the issue. We are not bothered about that because he has the right to do that. His going to court will not stop us from asking him some questions about the bribery allegation.”
We don’t feel bad about Otedola
He denied insinuation in some quarters that the House was after the oil magnate over his allegations against Lawan.
Said he: “We don’t have any reason to feel bad about Otedola’s allegation against Lawan. He has the constitutional right to do that. What we want to know and I know every Nigerian wants to know is how this deal was carried out; all the truth about it. It is not enough for one person to accuse the other of collecting a bribe; we have to know how the deal was consummated.
“We feel embarrassed that a speculation like this is going on. We grilled Lawan for several hours and he made some revelations. What is wrong with seeking further insight into the matter?”
On the details of what Lawan told the panel, the lawmaker said: “I don’t think it is important to reveal what he told us. We learnt a lot outside what we were made to believe before now.”
Otedola gave information on oil firms—Reps
Another member of the committee who also does not want his name mentioned disclosed that one of the high points of the interrogation was the revelation that Otedola was the person that gave the ad hoc committee information about all the oil firms during the probe.
Said he: “We discovered that in the course of the discussion with Lawan, Otedola gave information about other oil firms so as to nail them based on the belief that this would help in covering some deals by his own company. We invited him to get his own side of the story.
“Farouk denied collecting bribe from Otedola but he didn’t deny that some money was given to him by the same man. He claimed that the money he collected was to be used against the man and that he duly informed the Inspector General of Police.”
It would be recalled that Otedola condemned the decision of the House to relist Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd among companies indicted by the report submitted by its adhoc committee on petroleum subsidy regime. He had also reportedly insinuated that the leadership of the House migh have also been involved in the bribery scandal.