By Ike Abonyi and Ahamefula Ogbu
Fresh facts emerged at the weekend as to why the suspended chairman, House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on the Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy, Hon. Farouk Lawan, and the clerk of the committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, were not arrested on the spot after they took $620,000 as bribe from the Chairman, Zenon Oil and Gas, Mr. Femi Otedola, to doctor the report of the committee.
Sources told THISDAY that security agents had initially planned to arrest them when they went to Otedola’s residence to collect the money, but the agents changed their mind when they realised that arresting Lawan a few hours to the consideration of the report by the entire House could backfire.
Lawan, who collected $500,000 in two instalments and Emenalo, who collected $120,000, were not aware that the dollar bills handed to them were serialised, nor did they know that their interaction with Otedola was being recorded.
A source said the security agents decided to leave Lawan alone to allow him to present the report to the House after he had collected the second instalment and to establish whether he would persuade the House to delete Zenon from the list of companies that bought foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without importing fuel.
On another occasion when the security agents had positioned themselves to arrest Lawan at the airport where he was expected to collect the balance of the $3 million he had allegedly demanded from Otedola, they had to abandon the plan as Lawan elected to send an agent to collect the money.
The security agents believed filming Lawan’s agent would have left him room for deniability, as he could have distanced himself from the person he was meant to send to the airport.
There were also indications that Lawan and Emenalo have personally not watched the video footage of their alleged actions.
THISDAY gathered that security agents have been keeping it away from them until the last moment, possibly in court, although some people who have watched the video, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, may have relayed the content of the video to him.
Another security source said Lawan might be allowed to watch the video next week at the start of the next phase of investigations after he might have returned the money.
Lawan, who was sacked as chairman of the ad hoc committee and as chairman of the House Committee on Education last Friday was detained last Thursday when he honoured the police invitation to make a statement on the incident.
He was released from detention on Saturday evening after two days of interrogation by the police, during which THISDAY learnt that he agreed to present the bribe money he had allegedly collected from Otedola.
A source close to him said despite his suspension, he habours no bitter feelings towards the House leadership on the decision taken so far over his travails.
He also dismissed allegations that Lawan was under pressure to rope in the House leadership in the $3 million bribe-for-clearance saga.
The source, a lawmaker, said at a time like this, there would be different slants to the issue, especially those who might want to insinuate that the lawmaker might want to strike a deal “betray the leadership of the House because he is overwhelmed by the crisis”.
He said Lawan was satisfied with all the positions taken by the leadership at its Friday session and had promised to work with the committees investigating the allegations with a view to unravelling the facts.
“Lawan has said it since the issue broke that he is on the side of the leadership and would not do anything to put the House in a precarious situation or tarnish its towering image.
“He said he would ensure that whatever the House decides to do on the matter is what he would abide with,” he said.
The lawmaker noted that Lawan was particularly proud of the leadership and said: “Its handling of the present situation has shown that the choice of the leadership was not made in error and that the decision to be independent was well thought out.”
He condemned moves to run down Lawan by those flying a kite that he had already implicated Tambuwal in his statement to the police.
Such statements, he said, were concocted to pit the leadership against Lawan and ultimately abandon him.
“The leadership of the House has not abandoned Lawan and will not abandon him. What the leadership has done is to come clean in this by ensuring that the right thing is down.
“Suspending Lawan was the most rational thing anybody could do. But that is not an indication that he has been abandoned. We want to ensure a transparent process that would eventually see him come out clean,” he said.
In a related development, President Goodluck Jonathan has been asked to reject the ad hoc committee’s report on the grounds that it is tainted.
According to the National Chairman of the South-south Youth Leaders’ Forum, Odiedim Amachree, though the president had indicated that he would not change his mind about implementing the report, there is a compelling need for him to do so now following revelations that the exercise was selective and exonerated those who could pay their way out.
A statement by the forum said implementing the report now would expose the administration and the country to public odium, as those who had allegedly bought their way out of being indicted by the report would escape punishment despite their guilt.