Oil marketer, Femi Otedola, who paid $620,000 to House of Representatives member, Faouk Lawan, to get his companies exonerated from the list of firms that abused government fuel subsidy, has dismissed the House’s decision to re-list the companies as “blackmail” aimed at extorting money from him.
“If people at my level who have worked hard to build their businesses can be blackmailed this way all in a bid to extort money from them, I pity people that are just starting out in business in this country,” Mr. Otedola said.
The businessman said he was pressured by Mr. Lawan to pay bribes to clear his companies, which he insists did no wrong. The payment turned out a trap after the billionaire organized with security agents to record Mr. Lawan receiving the money.
The scandal has forced the House, which says it is not embarrassed and has no cause to be remorseful, to re-list Mr. Otedola’s companies amongst 13 other indicted firms.
In a statement after the decision on Friday, the billionaire accused the house of celebrating corruption, and said he did not believe Mr. Lawan acted alone in the episode.
“As far as I know, Lawan could not have been working alone in this extortionist plot. A tree does not make a forest,” he said. “Actions of today by the house is laughable, a mere celebration of corruption and a further indictment on their honorable member.”
Mr. Otedola claimed his companies were originally indicted after he refused to part with the amount Mr. Lawan asked for.
When he eventually did, the lawmaker sought the approval of the House to clear the companies.
“He did this without even asking Zenon to produce a single document of the forex transaction. He clearly wanted to extort money for an offence I did not commit. That is why I went to report to the security agencies,” he said.
“If I had anything to hide I wouldn’t have gone to the agencies. There is an old adage that says “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones”.