by Hauwa Gambo
Premium Times has published the result of an impressive investigation into the sting operation organised by the State Security Service and Femi Otedola, one of the nation’s oil and gas chiefs. The investigation seems to prove the alleged extortion, by Farouk Lawan, chair of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee that produced the famous #FuelSubsidyProbe report.
Interestingly, it turns out also, that the $600,000 was the first installment of the alleged bribe.
See excerpts below:
On repeated phone calls with Mr. Lawan, Mr. Otedola made it clear his companies did no wrong, and should not be on the list. He explained that against the committee’s position suggesting his companies failed to deliver, his company dealt with diesel which was not under the subsidy scheme.
According to security sources well briefed on the content of the monitored conversations, Mr. Lawan called the billionaire’s bluff, and said the committee had completed its work. However, if he were to help, then USD3 million (N480 million) would be needed to sort things out, he reportedly said.
Evidences of the discussions are available, and have been put before top government functionaries, the sources said.
Within the security circles, striking the compromise note at the time proved invaluable for a covert operation that had failed to establish substantial political links earlier envisaged, but that was prepared to build on any evidence of wrongdoing with the storm the report had generated.
“No one hoped this was going to be in this direction,” a source said. “That was not actually the intent of the whole coverage.”
After the demand was made, the SSS contacted Mr. Otedola in the open for the first time, officials informed about the events said, and offered to assist him only if he would cooperate and play the ball he was being offered. He agreed.
In Mr. Otedola’s interview, he claimed he reached out first for the agency. But officials say it was the contrary, and that the businessman’s position was in the interest of keeping the deal as furtive as possible.
Back with Mr. Lawan, the billionaire demurred on the payment briefly complaining he could not afford that at the time since he was in multiple bank debts, according to the conversations. He however indicated he would make offers.
Mr. Lawan insisted the amount was a fair sum considering consultations would be made, an argument Mr. Otedola agreed with. However, both men settled that a part of the money-USD600,000- be paid first, while the balance is cleared on a later date.
Again, Mr. Otedola raised fears about the report having been released already and soon to be considered by the House. But his worry was put to rest by the lawmaker who assured he knew the “buttons to press in the House.”
Then, the first tranches of the payment were made between Saturday April 21, and Monday, 23 -a day before the House began its considerations-at a location secretly fitted with audio and visual devices by the SSS.
“Farouk came in, sat by Otedola’s right. Then later, he collected the money and put some in his agbada trousers,” a source said, citing visual details of the meeting that was now being documented.
That encounter, will provide Mr. Lawan, at times an eccentric but well respected ranking member of the House, a needed impulsion to convince the House the next day of the innocence of Mr. Otedola’s two companies.