Hon. Farouk Lawan
By Onwuka Nzeshi
Chairman, House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, Hon. Jagaba Adams Jagaba, for the umpteenth time disowned the suspended Chairman, House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Subsidy Regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan, over the $620,000 bribery scandal.
Jagaba also threatened to institute legal action against Lawan if he continued to bandy his name in the bribery saga.
Lawan had in the testimony he gave to the police, alleged that he wrote a letter to Jagaba informing him of the bribe and attaching $500,000, which he got from Mr. Femi Otedola, an oil magnate.
Addressing a news conference Thursday shortly after he appeared before the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Jagaba said Lawan's claim was callous, untrue and a calculated attempt to smear his hard-earned reputation.
“I never received any letter or money or any other exhibit from Farouk Lawan. I saw for the first time the purported letter on a page of the Leadership Newspaper, Page 6 of 14th June, 2012; and the closest copy, which I saw and touched, was the copy he presented to the Police Special Task Force (STF) investigating the bribery scandal, when I went there on 10th July, 2012.
“Until and unless Hon. Farouk Lawan produces an authentic acknowledged copy of his letter, he should stop implicating my name and dragging it in the mud.
“It will be recalled that I displayed the sum of N4, 500, 000 bribe money on the floor of the House in 2001 when I was the Committee Chairman on Anti-Corruption.
“I did that as an act of patriotism, an act that truly laid the foundation for the ‘War against Corruption in Nigeria’.
“I cannot and shall never be involved in an individualistic act that runs antithetical to national interest.
“Hon. Farouk Lawan should stop this blackmail forthwith or else I will have no other option than take appropriate legal action against him and to seek compensation,” he warned.
Apparently responding to insinuations that he had been avoiding the police for a couple of weeks, Jagaba explained that the police invitation came while he was away in South Africa attending the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Region) Summit.
He disclosed that on his return, he honoured the invitation and was interrogated for two hours on the bribery scandal, during which he gave evidence on the allegations levelled against him.
“On the 11th July, 2012, the Police STF graciously arranged for a meeting between Hon. Farouk Lawan and myself between the hours of 3 and 4 pm. Farouk, in his opening remarks, stated that he reported the matter to me because of my position as the Chairman, House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes and not because I was involved in the bribery saga.
“He also told the police that he involved me in the matter because he thinks that that would enhance his case in court.
“We faced each other before the Police STF. I then put the question: 'Hon. Farouk, did you give me $500,000 or any money for that matter?' This was a question the out-spoken Farouk could not answer. He kept mum till I left,” he said.
Narrating his experience during his time with the police, Jagaba said the detectives treated him professionally on the two occasions he appeared before them and was neither manhandled nor were his constitutional rights infringed upon in any way.
“I was also invited by the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges today being 12th July 2012 at 1.00 pm, and I went and I asserted that I have not been given any letter or money as claimed by Hon. Farouk Lawan.
“I have no knowledge of such transactions and I am not in custody of any money or any other exhibit given to me by Farouk or any other person,” he said.
Jagaba raised a number of queries on the letter purportedly sent to him by Lawan, saying it had a lot of curious features that smacked of a confused mind, downright falsehood and was the product of an afterthought.
The following were the features of the purported letter: “It was dated 24/4/2012 and has the time of 03:47 am on it. Question: Is it the normal practice to indicate time on an official letter?
“The same time of 03:47 am on the top-right of the letter (indicating that he started writing at that time) also appeared on the bottom-right of the letter (indicating that he ended his letter at 03:47am).
“Is it humanly possible to write a two-page letter within or in less than one-second?
“The purported letter was addressed thus: The Chairman,
House Committee on Financial Crimes, House of Representatives. Observation: Hon. Farouk Lawan, as a 4th-termer in the House of Representatives should have been more familiar with the appropriate name of my committee which is The House Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes.
“On the second paragraph of the purported letter, Farouk Lawan state, ‘attached is the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars only...’
“Question: Is it practically possible to attach money of that quantity to a sheet of paper? Except if there exists a ‘five hundred thousand dollar bill!’
“Still, on the second paragraph, ‘...with another promise of Two Hundred Million, Five Hundred Thousand Dollars’. Observation: The total amount of bribe allegedly demanded was only $3 million, but here is a Farouk quoting a balance of a whooping Two Hundred Million, Five Hundred Thousand Dollars after collecting $500,000. The mathematics just did not add-up here!
“The purported letter was written on a clean sheet of paper. Observation: An official letter written about an issue of this magnitude should have, in my opinion, appeared on the official letter headed paper of the ad hoc committee on petroleum subsidy probe or at least, Hon. Farouk Lawan's letter headed paper.
“There was no acknowledgement of receipt of the letter purportedly written to my office.
“Observation: Forget that the letter was hand-written (because it was), but it should have carried the stamp and/or signature of receipt and date received. But there was nowhere on the entire letter, both on the copy presented to the Police Special Task Force and the copy published on page 6 of the Leadership Newspaper of 14th June 2012,” Jagaba said.
He further faulted the statements made by Lawan since the saga began. Jagaba recalled that Lawan, who initially denied ever demanding and collecting any bribe, later owned up that he actually took the bribe money as an exhibit.