‘Farouk Lawan was caught on video collecting $500,000 from Otedola’
A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja was yesterday told by a witness that former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan, was caught on video receiving $500,000 from Femi Otedola.
The second witness, David Igbodo, who is the Commissioner of Police, Legal Services and Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Special Investigation Unit told the court that Lawan was caught on video due to a sting operation by the Department of State Security (DSS).
Testifying before Justice Angela Otaluka, Igbodo said after Lawan had collected the $500,000 at the house of Femi Otedola on April 24, 2012, he proceeded to the House of Representatives and removed the name of Zenon Oil that was earlier indicted in a report before the ad hoc committee.
The witness said: “I found out that on April 24, 2012 about 3:47a.m., the defendant was in the house of Otedola and was given the sum of $500, 000 and was caught on video due to the sting operation by the DSS.
“The purpose of the demand and acceptance was to remove the name of Zenon Oil and AP Petroleum from the list of indicted companies.”
Following the case of alleged bribery against Lawan by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Lawan and one Boniface Emenalo are standing trial before Justice Angela Otaluka on a seven-count criminal charge bordering on obtaining $620,000 from Otedola in order to doctor the committee’s report in favour of Zenon Oil and Gas Limited.
During examination by the Prosecution counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, the witness further told the court that “On the same April 24, 2012, the defendant, after collecting the sum at the house of Otedola, crossed the name of Zenon Oil earlier indicted in a report before the committee at the House of Representatives.”
Igbodo further said: “The defendant (Lawan) admitted collecting the $500, 000. He admitted he went to the house of Femi Otedola and collected the sum of $500,000, and crossed the name of Zenon from the list.”
The witness also told the court that Lawan admitted collecting the money and said he gave it to another honourable member named Adams Jagaba, chairman House of Representatives Committee on Narcotics and Financial Crimes.
Jagaba was said to have, however, denied ever receiving the $500,000 from Lawan and equally denied that any letter was written to him in respect of the collection.
The witness told the court that he found out that the defendant, after collecting the money which was caught on video, did not report the collection to any security agency either before or after collecting the money. According to Igbodo, Lawan had rather gone straight to the House of Representatives.
The police chief said a search was conducted on the house of Jagaba but no money was found. At this point, a copy of the search warrant was presented before the court.
Igbodo said he found out that after the defendant had collected the $500,000 in the early morning of April 24, 2012 which was five days later, he went to the chairman of EFCC and reported that some marketers were offering him a planeload of dollars. He, however, said Farouk failed to inform the EFCC that he had earlier collected $500,000 from Otedola.
According to the witness, Lawan had said that the EFCC asked him to come back if any attempt was made to give him the planeload of dollars.
David also told the court that his findings revealed that the first prosecution witness, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, who was Secretary to the ad hoc committee on fuel subsidy, had also visited the house of Mr. Femi Otedola on April 24, 2012 at about 9:10a.m. and was caught on video collecting $100,000. I found out that the $100,000 he collected from Otedola was given to the defendant,” he said.
Igbodo also told the court that he found out that the defendant could not refund the sum of $600,000 made up of the $500,000 earlier collected and the $100,000 collected through Emenalo when the police demanded it from him, even though he had made an undertaking to produce it.
“In search for the $600,000, a search was conducted in the house of the defendant on June 15, 2012 where the sum of $10,000 only was recovered,” Igbodo said.
The Criminal Form D Search Warrant used to conduct a search on the house of the defendant where the said $10,000 was recovered, and a diplomatic passport issued on April 24, 2009 (though expired as at 2014), were tendered before the court.
But when the $10,000 obtained during the search was tendered, defence counsel, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), objected to its admissibility, arguing that the $100,000 has nothing to do with the weight attached to it. Ozekhome also argued that the prosecution had not shown from what custody the money had emerged.Awomolo, at this juncture, applied for withdrawal of the money, stating that the defence counsel was going to waste time.
Ozekhome said it was too late to withdraw the money as issues had already been joined to it. Awomolo, however, argued that issues would have been joined if he had replied and on point of law.
Justice Otaluka, after admitting the diplomatic passport and the search warrant document as exhibits PWD2D and PWD2E respectively, ruled against the admissibility of the $10,000.
Statements of the witness with the EFCC dated June 20, June 15, June 20, July 11, July 16, July 19 and September 25 were admitted into evidence as Exhibits G, H, J, K, L, L (1), and M respectively.
Ozekhome had earlier prayed the court for adjournment for adequate time and facilities to enable him to properly prepare his defence, which was not granted.Adjournment was, however, granted after Awomolo had prayed the court for it.Justice Angela Otaluka therefore granted adjournment for May 30, 2016.