Federal investigators of the Nigeria Police in Abuja finally gave the embattled lawmaker and chairman of the House of Representatives committee that probed the fuel subsidy, Farouk Lawan, a breather Saturday evening allowing him to go home on an administrative bail after holding him in police cell for 48 hours.
Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, confirmed the bail to PREMIUM TIMES saying since the lawmaker had owned up to receiving the money “which is the core of our investigations” he had fulfilled a good condition to earn his bail, although he insisted that investigation into the case continues, and that Mr. Lawan has been instructed to report back to investigators on Monday.
Mr. Mba declined to comment on the full conditions of the bail but knowledgeable sources close to the investigations told PREMIUM TIMES that the embattled lawmaker was offered bail after the Speaker of the House of Representative, Aminu Tambuwal, assured the police that the bribe money is in his safe custody and that the House of Representative will officially hand it over to the police.
With this assurance, the police also felt confident to allow Mr. Lawan head home after his lawyer, Israel Olorundare, SAN, promised federal investigators to produce whenever the police needed him.
Satisfied with these assurances, “we merely collected his passport and asked him to return on Monday” said our source. Mr. Lawan’s attorney, Mr. Olorundare, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that his client’s passport was seized and that he was asked to return to the police on Monday.
The Monday date for Mr. Lawan is sure to open a fresh page in inter-agency rivalry on who takes a lead in the investigations and ultimate prosecution of the case.
It appears however that the Attorney General of the Federation’s Office is aware of this potential crisis by its Friday evening decision to direct the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, to take a lead in further investigations and prosecution of Mr. Lawan’s case.
Police investigators who are planning to submit their First Investigations Report, FIR, to the Attorney General, AGF, on Monday, appear unhappy about this development which they say may jeopadise their investigations.
The Attorney Generals Office, according to inside sources “struggled with this case before finally settling for the ICPC.” The challenge, according to sources privy to the decisions but who sought anonymity for this report, was how to use this high profile case to re-launch the fading anti-corruption war of the administration in the context of what seems to be an over burdened police department, and the ICPC which is a traditionally slow agency.
Initially the AGF’s office toyed with asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, take the case, according to our source, “but the EFCC was already saddled with investigating the oil marketer’s and there are real fears that either of the central actors in this case may need to be a witness against the other” so this option was dropped.
As a fraud case, the police, and the ICPC all have statutory powers to investigate and prosecute the case, however where it is a pointed case of bribery in the public service, the ICPC traditionally takes the lead.
Mr. Lawan was arrested on Thursday for collecting $620,000 bribe from the chairman of Zenon oil, Femi Otedola.
While probing the fuel subsidy expenditure, he allegedly demanded a bribe of $3m from Mr. Otedola for him and his committee to clear Zenon oil of any undoing in the fuel subsidy saga. After receiving $620,000 of the money, Mr. Lawan, whose committee had initially indicted Zenon and requested the company be further investigated by anti-corruption agencies, cleared the company while presenting his report on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Mr. Lawan’s shady dealings with the oil tycoon were however recorded on audio and video by the state security service (SSS). The beleaguered lawmaker has been removed as chairman of the two committees he headed in the House of Representatives.