A prosecution witness, Femi Otedola, in the ongoing trial of a former member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, yesterday told an Abuja High Court that the defendant collected $500,000 as bribe to exonerate his company from the fuel subsidy fraud list.
The Federal Government had re-arraigned Lawan in December 2016 for allegedly receiving bribe. Lawan was accused to have pressured Otedola, founder of Zenon Oil to part with a $3 million bribe while he (Lawan) was chairing a subcommittee investigating a multi-billion dollar fraud associated with government fuel subsidy during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. At the resumed trial yesterday, the Prosecution counsel, Chief Adegoyega Ademolo, (SAN) had called Otedola as his main witness.
The prosecution had earlier played a video where Lawan was seen receiving $500, 000 from Otedola. The witness however during examination explained how the said bribe was collected. According to him, the defendant had indicted his company in the alleged fraud and demanded $3 million to exonerate him. He added that after the initial deposit of $500,000 was paid into his account, Lawan declared Zenon Oil and Gas free of the initial indictment.
“After the early hours of 24th April 2012: (the time the money was paid) he left and removed the name of Zenon from the list of indicted companies,” Otedola further explained. When asked by the prosecution counsel about the claim by Lawan that the witness forced him to take the money, Otedola denied it. “I could not have put pressure on him because Zenon Oil was not involved in the theft of the subsidy fund.
“He did demand. And if he did not demand, why will he collect and expect a balance of $2.5 million? He mentioned to me that the $3 million will be shared by himself and some other members of the House “Moreover, the company in question was not involved in the importation of premium motor spirit (PMS) and as such never applied to withdraw from the petroleum fund.” The witness also denied the allegation by Lawan that he (Otedola) offered to pay the money so that his name would be removed from the list of indicted companies.
“I did not offer any $3 million, because I was one of the biggest players in the business. And I reported the matter initially when I found out about the scam. And he mentioned to me that several companies that were involved in the scam were paying. And I reported to the SSS.”