Lawan Was Caught on Video Collecting $500,000 from Otedola, Witness Tells Court

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Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The second prosecution witness in the trial of former Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan, wednesday told an Abuja High Court sitting in Lugbe, that Lawan was caught on video receiving USD 500,000 from Otedola.

The witness, David Igbodo, who is Commissioner of Police, Legal Services and Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in the office of Inspector General of Police (IG) Special Investigation Unit told the court that Lawan was caught on video, the product of a sting operation by the Department of State Security (DSS).

Testifying before Justice Angela Otaluka, David said after collecting $500,000 in the house of Femi Otedola on April 24, 2012, Lawan proceeded to the House of Representatives and crossed out the name of Zenon Oil that was earlier indicted in a report before the ad hoc committee.

He said: “I found out that on April 24, 2012 at about 3:47a.m. in the morning, the defendant was in the house of Otedola and was given the sum of $500,000 and was caught on video due to the sting operation by the DSS.
“The purpose of the demand and acceptance was to remove the name of Zenon Oil and AP Petroleum from the list of indicted companies,” David told the court.

Following the case of alleged bribery against Lawan by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Lawan and one Boniface Emenalo were initially charged but the charge was amended and Emenalo was made a prosecuting witness.

Lawan was accused of obtaining $620,000 from Otedola in order to doctor the committee’s report in favour of Zenon Oil and Gas Limited. During examination by prosecution counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, the witness further told the court that “On the same April 24, 2012, the defendant after collecting the money at the house of Otedola, crossed the name of of Zenon Oil earlier indicted in a report before the committee at the House of Representatives.”

In his evidence-in-chief, he said: “To my findings, the defendant (Lawan) admitted collecting the $500,000.
“He admitted he went to the house of Femi Otedola and collected the sum of $500,000, crossed the name of Zenon from the list.

“The witness also told the court that Lawan admitted collecting the money and gave it to another Honourable member named Adams Jagaba, Chairman House of Representatives on Narcotics and Financial Crimes.”

Jagaba, however, was said to have denied ever receiving the $500,000 from Lawan and equally denied that any letter was written to him in respect of the collection.

The witness testified before the court that he found out that the defendant after collecting the sum of $500,000 which was caught on video, did not report the collection to any security agency neither before nor after collecting the money.

David said a search was conducted on the house of Jagaba but no money was found in the house.
At this point, a copy of the search warrant was presented before the court.
David said that he found out that after the defendant had collected the $500,000 in the early morning of April 24, 2012 which was five days later, went to the chairman of EFCC and reported that some marketers were offering him a plane load of dollars.

David however said Lawan failed to inform the EFCC that he had earlier collected $500,000 from Otedola.
According to the witness, Lawan had said that the EFCC asked him to come back if any attempt was made to give him the plane load of dollars.

David also told the court that his findings revealed that first prosecution witness, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, who was Secretary to the Adhoc committee on fuel subsidy had also visited the house of Otedola on April 24, 2012 at about 9-10a.m. and was caught on video collecting $100,000.

“I found out out that the $100,000 he collected from Otedola was given to the defendant,” he added.

David also told the court that he found out that the defendant could not refund the sum of $600,000 made up of the $500,000 earlier collected and the $100,000 collected through Emenalo when the police had demanded it from him, even though he had made an undertaking to produce it.

“In search of the $600,000, a search was conducted in the house of the defendant on June 15, 2012 where the sum of $10,000 only was recovered,” David said.

Criminal Form D; Search Warrant, used to conduct a search on the house of the defendant where the said $10,000 was recovered, a diplomatic passport issued on April 24, 2009 (though expired as at 2014), was tendered before the court.

However, when the $10,000 obtained during the search was tendered, defence counsel, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) objected to its admissibility arguing that the $10,000 has nothing to do with the weight attached to it.

Ozekhome also argued that the prosecution had not shown from what custody the money had emerged. Awomolo at this juncture applied for withdrawal of the money stating that the defence counsel was going to waste time.
Ozekhome said it was too late to withdraw the money as issues had already been joined to it.

Awomolo, however, argued that issues would have been joined if he had replied and on point of law.
Justice Otaluka, after admitting the diplomatic passport and the search warrant document as exhibits PWD2D and PWD2E respectively into evidence, ruled against the admissibility of the $10,000.
Statements of the witness with the EFCC dated June 20, June 15, June 20, July 11, July 16, July 19 and September 25 were admitted into evidence as Exhibits G, H, J, K, L, L (1), and M respectively.

Ozekhome had earlier prayed the court for adjournment for adequate time and facilities to enable him properly prepare his defence, which was not granted.

Adjournment was however granted after Awomolo had later prayed the court for it.
Justice Otaluka therefore adjourned the case to May 30, 2016.