Latest on bribery scandal: House turns heat on Otedola

The House of Representatives Ethics and Privileges committee announced on Thursday it was issuing summons for the appearance of oil marketer, Femi Otedola, before it, claiming that after questioning Mr. Farouk Lawan, over the $620,000 bribery scam, “startling revelations” had turned up.

The lawmaker and Mr. Otedola have been embroiled in the scandal that has been fraught with accusations and denials, with a police investigation into the matter, barely achieving much.

Amidst a police probe, the House committee opened its internal probe on the case on Thursday, meeting with Mr. Lawan for more than three hours behind closed doors, after a brief opening in which the committee pledged to conduct a transparent and fair inquiry.

After the session, the committee chairman, Gambo Dan-Musa said “several questions” put to Mr. Lawan, produced “startling revelations.” On that account, Mr. Otedola and other “stakeholders” with information about the case, were to be invited.

The lawmaker did not give details of the committee’s findings.

“The committee is set to carry out its assignment with a very high sense of commitment. We shall strive to be fair and just to all parties involved,” he said.

Mr. Otedola is to appear on July 3, 2012, Mr. Dan-Musa said, explaining the meeting was conducted in camera against earlier assurance for an open hearing, to forestall the undermining of the expected testimonies.

Coming more than two weeks after the scandal broke out, the House inquiry provides a new front to the episode which police say investigations had been slowed by the inability to trace the marked dollar notes paid to the lawmaker.

Mr. Lawan has agreed receiving the payment from Mr. Otedola, who, claiming to have acted to expose the lawmaker, however received in return, clearance for his oil firm, Zenon, earlier indicted for fuel fraud investigated by the House.

However, in earlier presentations to the police, the lawmaker has also denied receiving the sum as a bribe, claiming instead to have accepted the exchange, recorded by security agents, to implicate Mr. Otedola.

Mr. Lawan said immediately after making the receipt, he informed, and passed the notes to another House member Adams Jagaba, who is in charge of the House Financial Crimes committee.

In an earlier memo sent to the speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, Mr. Jagaba, denied receiving the sum, or the information.

Police say finding the marked notes is key to the investigation. But after two weeks during which Mr. Otedola and Mr. Lawan have been interrogated by the police, investigators say the funds could still not be located.

Mr. Jagaba on Thursday denied being invited by the police over the incident, dispelling earlier reports his refusal to explain his role had stalled the investigation, and had prompted a deadline to be issued for his appearance.

“I have never received any invitation from the police to that effect but I am surprised to be reading in some newspapers that I was invited and I refused to appear,” he said.


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