Otedola: Despite Blowing Exposing Subsidy Scam, Lawan Demanded Bribe

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Akinwale Akintunde

The Chairman of Forte Oil Plc, Mr. Femi Otedola said he informed ex-President Goodluck Jonathan about a subsidy scam that was being perpetrated during his presidency while explaining how he blew the whistle on those ripping off Nigeria in the oil sector.

According to the oil magnate, there were some Nigerian companies who had claimed money for subsidy on petroleum products they did not import leading him to discuss the situation with the former president.

Otedola said, “I realised that companies in Nigeria were claiming money for subsidy on petroleum products they never imported. When I saw how much was being stolen, I went to the then President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.”

However, the oil magnate disclosed that Jonathan did not believe his claims, noting that he explained how much was being stolen as money for subsidy on the product they never imported.

He said, “Jonathan told me later that he had consulted with the then Minister of Petroleum and that there is nothing of such. I then reached out to Senator Bukola Saraki who raised the issue on the floor of the Senate and thereafter, the House of Representatives set up a panel to investigate the allegation.”

The oil mogul stated this while standing as a prosecution witness at high court sitting in the Federal Capital Territory as he recounted how Farouk Lawan, then-lawmaker in the House of Representatives and the Chairman of Ad hoc Committee inaugurated by the lower chamber to investigate oil subsidy scam had threatened to indict his oil company (African Petroleum Plc now Forte Oil) and demanded $3 million to exonerate Zenon from a subsidy scam allegation.

“The defendant (Lawan) reached out to me and I gave him the background information as to how the monies were being stolen. I gave relevant information to the ad hoc committee. I had two companies, which are in the oil and gas industry, which were AP and Zenon oil.

“The two companies had something to do with the defendant’s panel. AP submitted to the committee documents regarding all the importations of the company. Mr. Otaru, General Manager AP, had direct contact with the defendant’s committee,” he told the court.

As Otedola narrated, Lawan had other ideas, saying: “On April 18, 2012, the defendant came to see me at my house in Abuja after the report of the committee had been laid before the House of Representatives in plenary.

“He told me that pursuant to what we discussed on the phone while I was in the UK, he was going to indict Zenon Oil and Gas Ltd. He demanded the sum of $3m to exonerate Zenon oil. I asked him why he would indict a company that did not import petrol but diesel. He said most of the companies indicted had paid a bribe. I told him this was extortion.”

Subsequently, the Forte Oil boss petitioned the Department of State Services regarding the issue and a plan for a sting operation was hatched.

“After my petition to the DG DSS, I received a call from the DSS official – from Caleb – who told me that they were going to carry out a sting operation. He told me that I will be provided with serialised dollars to give to the defendant and they were going to install video-recording gadgets in my living and dining rooms. About six operatives of the DSS did the installation, I was given $620,000 serialised dollars. I took the instruction of the DSS and I agreed to play along.

“On April 23, 2012, I was in my house in Abuja. The defendant came to my house and I handed over to him the $500,000 given to me by the DSS. After handing over the $500,000 to the defendant, I asked him what next. He said he would go to the House and discuss with its leadership.

He said I should watch House plenary on the television. Shortly after, I watched it on the television where the defendant applied to the House in plenary that the name of Zenon oil removed from the subsidy scam which was then removed,” the oil magnate recounted.