Hon. Farouk Lawan
By Ike Abonyi
Suspended Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the Monitoring of the Fuel Subsidy regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan, who was intercepted on his way to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night, would have foregone his trip but for the delay in his flight and the intervention of a very senior security official, THISDAY has learnt.
Fresh facts made available to THISDAY Wednesday, which were confirmed by the State Security Service (SSS), showed that contrary to Lawan’s denial through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, that he was not initially stopped from making the trip, security agents had indeed intercepted him at the airport and prevented him from making the trip.
Lawan, considered a flight risk because of his alleged indictment for collecting $500,000 from the Chairman, Zenon Petroleum & Gas Ltd., Mr. Femi Otedola, during the probe of oil marketers, to doctor the report of the ad hoc committee, was stopped at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, when he was about to board an Emirates Airline flight.
The beleaguered lawmaker, who was on his way to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj when security agents stopped him, is billed for arraignment soon by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), as the police have concluded investigation into the allegation against him.
His case file is currently receiving the attention of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, for a decision on his probable arraignment.
THISDAY gathered Wednesday that Lawan, who was frantically working the phone after security agents accosted him and told him he could not travel, finally succeeded in getting a top security chief to intervene on his behalf.
The intervention, which came very late, coupled with the delay of the Emirates Airline flight, originally due for departure at 10 pm, but which did not take off until 4 am Wednesday because of a technical problem, made it possible for Lawan to make the trip.
The security agents had stopped Lawan from travelling, demanding to know if he had clearance from the relevant law enforcement agencies investigating the bribery allegation against him.
When he was unable to provide evidence of permission to travel by the police, he was stopped at about 9.30 pm.
However, sources said before he was allowed to travel, Lawan was made to give a written undertaking that he would return to Nigeria after the pilgrimage to defend himself against the cash-for-clearance bribery allegation.
It was learnt that there was concern in security circles as to who initially authorised the trip since Lawan’s international passport was supposed to be with the police.
Sources in the SSS also informed THISDAY that it is the only agency that can place a surveillance on people and intercept travellers at exit and entry points at the airports.
They added that Lawan is on the security watch list and that there is nobody on that list who passes through the airports that will not be intercepted.
But Ozekhome, in a statement, said there was no way security agents would have stopped Lawan from travelling as he had the permission of the police to embark on the trip.
According to him, Lawan is now in Saudi Arabia, performing lesser Hajj, and he would be away for two weeks.
“Farouk Lawan duly notified the Nigeria Police Force which has been investigating him and which had given him administrative bail on certain conditions that he has always scrupulously adhered to.
“The SSS which had never investigated him notwithstanding the simulated but non-existent ‘sting operation’ allegedly carried out by it since May this year could not have prevented law-abiding Farouk from travelling outside Nigeria when it is not the investigating agency and when Farouk has not undermined the security of Nigeria or a section of it.
“Farouk is presumed innocent under extant Nigerian constitutional provisions, especially Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as altered, until tried and proven guilty of a crime in a court of competent jurisdiction,” he said.
Lawan’s denial, notwithstanding, THISDAY unequivocally stands by the story published Wednesday.