House says Farouk Lawan should face trial over $600,000 bribery allegation

The House of Representatives vowed on Saturday to back full investigations into an allegation that its member, Farouk Lawan, who headed the adhoc committee that unearthed a trillion naira fuel subsidy fraud, received huge bribes to exonerate one of the oil cartels.

Media reports have accused Mr. Lawan, a fourth-term member of the House, of accepting $600,000 (about N96 million) to absolve an unnamed oil company of complicity in the expansive subsidy fraud that totaled over N2 trillion.

Mr. Lawan could not be reached Sunday morning. When contacted Saturday night, he said he was travelling between Kano and Abuja and would provide a written response to the allegation on arrival in the nation’s capital.

The exchange between Mr. Lawan and the company’s officials, was secretly videoed, and a clip sent to a former head of state, who in turn, delivered it to the speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, Vanguard newspaper, which first reported the scandal, said.

Mr. Tambuwal, the report further claimed, reportedly distanced himself from the episode after confronting Mr. Lawan with the details of the cash exchange, and has made it clear the house will not provide a cover for the misconduct.

In a statement late Saturday, the House said it will “never take side with corruption and we will always stand on the side of the rule of law.”

“While we await investigation into these weighty accusations, we wish to state without equivocation that this honourable House will never take side with corruption and we will always stand on the side of the rule of law,” chairman House committee on media and public affairs, Zakari Muhammed said.

“The reason we inaugurated the adhoc committee to look into the controversial subsidy regime in the first place was to expose corruption in the sector, as such, we cannot, for whatever reason, support any underhand dealing from any quarter,” Mr. Muhammed said.

The allegation is the latest in a series of concerns that the committee, whose report indicting several top government officials and offices was widely applauded by Nigerians, was compromised by those it set out to investigate.

In all the accusations, the committee denied involvement, including an alleged Valentine’s Day gift from an oil company. The gift-presented as an ordinary greetings package but with cash within – was allegedly delivered to the committee’s secretariat before February 14.

In exchanges with PREMIUM TIMES at that time, Mr. Lawan said he had given instructions that no gift should be accepted by any committee member or secretariat official. Also, the head of the company in question confirmed a gift was sent to the committee, but denied it included money.

“It was just valentine’s greetings as a demonstration of love,” the official told PREMIUM TIMES.

If confirmed, the revelation would be a grave blow for a House that has attempted to steer its affairs away from a past of controversies, scandals and corruption. It comes barely two months after a similar allegation of bribery against the House committee on capital market forced the suspension of its former members.

Herman Hembe, who headed the committee, has been charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for fraud while a promised internal House inquiry has yet to commence.

The House has not clearly stated whether a similar in-house probe will be undertaken against Mr. Lawan as it commenced its annual recess last Thursday.

Mr. Muhammed said despite the allegation, the House stood by the reports of the Farouk Lawan committee, and hoped the development will not be cited by the executive as a reason for their non-implementation.

“However, these accusations, whatever their merits, do not detract from the quality of the work done by the committee. The report of that committee was adopted by the whole house and we stand by the resolutions of the house,” he said.

“We hope that the executive will not, because of this allegation, abandon its commitment towards bringing to justice, the culprits already in the committee’s report.”



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