There were hints yesterday of the reasons behind the cofidence exuded by the embattled former Chairman of the House of Representatives ad hoc Committee on the Management of Fuel Subsidy, Mallam Farouk Lawan.
A National Assembly source told our correspondent that Lawan is set to shock Nigerians with proofs of his innocence. Lawan had once said he would be vindicated at the end of the investigation.
The House Committee on Ethics and Privileges on Thursday commenced investigation into the sum of $620,000 Lawan allegedly collected from the Chairman of Zenon Petroleum, Femi Otedola.
Lawan, who entered the investigation room at 1:06pm on Thursday appeared unruffled by the media attention the allegation of bribery levelled against him has gained in recent time. On sighting the more than 50 newsmen who had waited earnestly for his arrival, he said, “Mr Chairman, it is a full house.”
However, contrary to earlier promise by the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Zakari Mohammed, that the session would be open to media coverage, the Chairman of the Committee, Gambo Dan-Musa asked journalists to leave after he had read his address.
Mohammed later defended the Committee’s decision to hold the investigation behind closed door. According to the House Spokesman, the decision was to avoid distraction as other investigations on the same matter were going on.
He said the Committee would not want media attention to create a situation where evidence of one investigation would affect the course of the other.
According to the source, the lawmaker, who was also relieved of his chairmanship of the Education Committee, was not only relaxed throughout the session, he was very cooperative and was ready to assist the committee in its assignment.
Saying that Nigerians are in for a shock concerning the bribe, the source affirmed that the issue of the whereabouts of the money would be laid to rest by the time the report of the Committee is tabled before the House.
Asked about the disposition of Lawan to the Committee’s questions, the source said: “He was confident in the way he carried himself, because he has proof. He did not fidget and he gave us the relevant things we requested from him.
“You know he was Vice Chairman of Ethics committee in 1999. So, he knew the extent the Ethics Committee could go. So, he was quite open. The reality is that he has all the text messages. He has evidence that will shock everybody with the little we got from him.”
The source also revealed that the Committee was cautious but firm about the whereabouts of the cash, going by past experience. “Nobody saw any money with the former Speaker Adolphus Wabara. Where he fell into the trap was that he allowed himself to be deceived. They cajoled him that he should accept that he took the money and that he should pay back and that there won’t be any problems. He fell for it and went and dropped the money. As soon as he dropped the money, they nailed him.
“As for Farouk, he did not deny collecting the money as he seemed to be aware of the consequences, but the whereabouts of the money is what the investigation should determin.”
He also said that the main focus of the Committee is to ascertain the relationships between the alleged bribe and the outcome of the report.
“Our own job basically is to find out if he went out to take bribe to influence the report in any way. You should not forget that Otedola has three companies involved in the case.
“One can recall that the report was tabled on the 19th. If they had taken money from anybody, why would they be indicted. You know their mandate was PMS. This is a very simple matter. If your company was not involved and you have documents to back it up, then present it.
“In the case of Zenon, he made documents available. But as for AP, he did not present any document and that was why AP was still there. He started helping the committee by giving them information. At the end of the day, it turned around. The story changed and started with some threats, but Farouk went to get that money to save himself, not knowing at that point too, the man was also looking for how to blackmail him.
“That is basically how far I can go with you until the man appears before us to have a look at another angle to the saga. But from what he has, Nigerians will be shocked.”