More trouble for Farouk Lawan as Speaker, House committee chair deny custody of exhibit money

Police investigation into the $3 million bribery scandal engulfing the House of Representatives hit a brickwall Tuesday with Adams Jagaba, the lawmaker earlier said to be in possession of the marked dollar bills, refuting the claim made by Farouk Lawan who is at the centre of the scandal.

Mr. Lawan had claimed he formally alerted Mr. Jagaba, who heads the House committee on Drugs, Financial Crimes and Narcotics, of the attempt by oil marketer, Femi Otedola, to bribe the House fuel subsidy committee which Mr. Lawan headed.

Attached to the letter written to Mr. Jagaba, was the sum of $620,000 which Mr. Otedola paid, Mr. Lawan had claimed.

Since the allegation broke last week, Mr. Jagaba, a second term member, defied media inquiries, refusing to comment on the matter.

Police have said locating the cash, marked by security agents in the sting operation that caught Mr. Lawan, is at the centre of its investigations.

Mr. Lawan, who is the former chair of ad hoc committee on fuel subsidy returned to the police Headquarters on Monday without the money, after earlier securing a bail on Saturday on the assurances of the House leadership the money would be returned to the police.

Speaking on a Radio Nigeria network programme, Police Diary, on Tuesday morning, a police spokesperson, Emmanuel Inyang, confirmed the money had not been surrendered still.

Mr. Inyang said Mr. Lawan had instead undertaken to work with all law enforcement agencies to recover the money.  He claimed part of it was stolen by burglars.

In new details of communications between the police, and the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, and Mr. Jagaba, on Tuesday, June 19, 2012, Mr. Jagaba denied

“categorically and unequivocally” the money was in his custody.

The exchanges, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, shed new light into one of the most embarrassing scandals the lower chamber has ever witnessed.

Police wrote first to Mr. Tambuwal last Friday, June 15, asking him to secure the release of the said money, since Mr. Lawan had told investigators he handed them to Mr. Jagaba.

The Police letter, signed by Commissioner of Police, Ali Amodu, requested the Speaker to make the amount available, and “any other material that maybe of use to this investigation.”

Clearly the memo arrived as the House was in an emergency session convened to deliberate on the scandal. A response to the police was delayed.

As the House reconvened Tuesday, June 19, Mr. Tambuwal initiated a letter to Mr. Jagaba, for the first time – as indicated in the tone of the content – asking the lawmaker to respond to the police request as indicated in the letter, a copy which was attached.

The speaker’s letter, signed by Chile Igbawua, his Special Adviser, Legal and Legislative, told Mr. Jagaba the police “was self explanatory” and that he should “react urgently” to the request.

But in a four-paragraph response, Mr. Jagaba said neither the funds nor any other exhibits were with him.

“I wish to categorically and unequivocally state that there was never a time I was in possession of the sum of $620,000 or any other exhibits(in my personal capacity or official capacity as chairman House committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes) relating to the subject matter..,” he said.

“I hope this explanation lays to rest once and for all the claims that I or my committee is in possession of the sum of $620,000 USD purportedly given as bribe to the ad hoc committee on monitoring of fuel subsidy regime.”

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