Reps to hold emergency session over $3million bribery scandal

The House of Representatives is suspending a two-week recess for an emergency plenary on Friday over the USD 620,000 bribery scandal involving its member, Farouk Lawan, and oil tycoon, Femi Otedola.

An extraordinary general assembly will hold on June 15, 2012, the Clerk of the House, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, announced in a message to lawmakers on Wednesday.

“Honourable members are advised to take note and attend promptly please,” Mr Sani-Omolori said. He did not state the agenda for the session.

But it is clear that the meeting, coming a week into the House two-week break, and on an unusual day (plenary hold Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays), will discuss the scandal that has rocked the lower chamber.

Mr. Lawan, who led the House investigation into federal government fuel subsidy abuses, is accused of accepting USD 620,000 to clear Mr. Otedola’s oil firm, Zenon, of complicity in the scheme that ripped public funds in trillions of naira.

Mr. Otedola, a major financier of the ruling People’s Democratic Party and top player in the oil industry often accused of underhand dealings, has admitted paying the amount as advance payment for a USD3 million kickback, but said he did so to expose the lawmaker.

Mr. Otedola worked with the State Security Service (SSS) while paying the bribe at his residence. The transaction was videotaped.

The business tycoon was questioned by police investigators on Tuesday in Abuja, but was later released. It is not yet clear whether he will face charges.

 Mr. Lawan has also admitted collecting the money but claims it was meant to to provide evidence to back his committee’s claim that it faced tremendous pressure during its work.

The scandal which broke as the house was leaving for the recess last week, has sparked fury amongst lawmakers and the house leadership, both said to view Mr. Lawan’s explanation as an afterthought since he withheld the information for more than a month after the encounter.

In an earlier statement, the House said it will back full investigations and will not provide a cover.

“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,” spokesperson, Zakari  Muhammed said.

The emergency session on Friday is expected to allow Mr. Lawan an opportunity to officially present his position, and thereafter, stand down with the rest of the ad hoc committee members, to allow for a thorough investigation of the allegations.


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