Farouk Lawan remains in custody after failing to produce marked dollar bills

The police held for a second night suspended House of Representatives fuel subsidy committee chair, Farouk Lawan, who is at the centre of a $620,000 bribery scandal, after the lawmaker failed to turn in the marked notes he received in the sting operation that nailed him, officials said Friday night.

Mr. Lawan turned himself in to the police for questioning Thursday evening after admitting he collected the money, although he denied it was meant to be a bribe.

He claimed the money was to be submitted before the House as a proof of the pressure its committee, investigating a gargantuan fuel importation fraud, faced from the marketers.

He received the amount as an advance payment for $3 million, from oil business mogul, Femi Otedola, and cleared two of Mr. Otedola’s oil firms that were accused of taking part in the more than N1 trillion fraud.

But asked by investigators to surrender the notes, marked and secretly videotaped by agents, Mr. Lawan could only afford a few left overs, claiming the rest had been stolen by burglars, a police source said.

Force spokesperson, Frank Mba, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES he remained in custody because “investigations were still ongoing.”

A highly placed police officer later told this newspaper at midnight that the lawmaker was offered bail with conditions he couldn’t meet.

He said the embattled lawmaker might be released on Saturday.

Mr. Lawan was removed from his positions in the House on Friday at an emergency session convened to discuss the scandal.

The episode, only the latest in a series of corruption scandals in the House, appears the most disgraceful and highlights the desperation lawmakers exhibit to draw kickbacks and patronages.

Latest revelations from top security  sources, who have seen the videos of the exchange, say on the three occasions Mr. Lawan visited the businessman for the deal, he drove himself in a C class Mercedes Benz.

For each of the visits, five video recordings, averaging a duration of eight to 10 minutes, were made.

The lawmaker negotiated the terms of the bribe with Mr. Otedola over a lunch on the first visit, the source said. He later received the first part of $250,000 on the second visit, which was around 11 p.m. Then, he got the second part of the money on the third visit which was around 5.05 am.

Dressed in a green agbada and a sokoto cap, the source said, Mr. Lawan stuffed the wads in his pockets and under the cap possibly to conceal the package from Mr. Otedola’s domestic aides since they hadn’t seen him enter with a baggage.

“In the video, Lawan was clearly seen stuffing wads of dollar bills into his pocket; when his pocket was full, to the utter shock of those who watched the video, he removed his cap and concealed the remaining wads of dollar bills inside it and replaced the cap on his head,” the source said.

“Nigerians will reel with laughter if they ever get to watch this video. It is on the one hand hilarious, and on the other hand, shameful.”

 


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