ABUJA—Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd., Chief Femi Otedola, yesterday, told an Abuja High Court sitting at Apo that it was the Department of State Services, DSS, that gave him the $500,000 bribe money he offered to erstwhile Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy probe, Mr. Farouk Lawan.
Otedola, who mounted the witness box and testified before Justice Angela Otaluka, said the marked foreign currency that implicated Lawan was handed to him after he wrote a petition to DSS.
In the said petition, the witness said he revealed how Lawan, who is facing corruption charges, demanded $3 million bribe to de-list his firm from House of Reps report that in 2012 indicted several companies in the oil subsidy scam.
While being cross-examined by lead counsel to the defendant, Chief Mike Ozekhome(SAN), Otedola told the court that the $500,000 was a part payment of the $3 million Lawan demanded from him.
He said unknown to Lawan, he collected the bribe money under the supervision of the DSS.
“Lawan said he was going to exonerate my company after giving him the money,” Otedola told the court, saying he promptly brought the bribe demand to the attention of the secret service.
He said shortly after he lodged a complaint before DSS, security cameras were mounted in his living room to capture the exchange of money between him and the defendant.
Asked if he has the video of the meeting, Otedola said the clips were in DSS custody, revealing that Lawan collected the $500,000 in two tranches of $250,000 each.
Queried by Ozekhome on why the defendant was not apprehended immediately he was caught red-handed, the witness said he did not know why DSS failed to arrest Lawan the moment he was receiving the bribe.
Meanwhile, Justice Otaluka has adjourned the matter till March 8 for Otedola to be further cross-examined.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, had in the charge before the court, alleged that Lawan and the Secretary of the then Reps Committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, demanded an aggregate sum of $3 million, with a view to ensuring that Otedola’s company escaped prosecution.
Lawan was said to have pocketed $620,000 as part payment for the illegal deal.
Though the anti-graft agency initially charged the duo for bribery and corruption, it later amended the charge and converted Emenalo to a prosecution witness.
The ICPC had earlier tendered a video clip that showed Lawan collecting a parcel from Otedola.
The video was presented by DSS, through its Principal Officer in charge of Technical Operations, Mr. David Ojataha.
On the directive of the judge, the video which lasted for about three minutes was played in the open court by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Awomolo(SAN).
According to Awomolo, “the video I just played is that of Mr. Femi Otedola and Farouq Lawan, where there was an exchange of parcel at Otedola’s house in Aso Drive, Abuja.”
In his evidence-in-chief, Mr. Ojataha told the court that he was saddled with the responsibility of recording the video by DSS owing to his background as an Electronics and Telecommunication Engineer.
However, Lawan’s lawyer, Ozekhome(SAN), while cross-examining the witness, said the device used in playing the CD had no imprint of time and event in the video.
Ozekhome consequently contended that there was nothing to show that what the defendant collected from Otedola was bribe money.
Lawan’s lawyer equally insisted that there was also nothing in the video to suggest that bribery was discussed because such words like “bribe” was not heard in the video.
ICPC alleged that Lawan acted contrary to Section 17 (1) (a), Section 8(1) (a) (b) (ii), and Section 23 (i) of the Corrupt practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 8 (1) 17 (1) and 23(3) of the same Act.
Emenalo, who testified earlier, gave reasons why he accepted $100,000 from Otedola.
He told the court that he took the money to expose Otedola’s move to compromise members of the subsidy committee and that he collected the $100,000 bribe money from Otedola in $100 bills.
He told the court that the first meeting he had with Otedola was on Sunday, April 22, 2012, with a follow-up meeting between them on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at the oil mogul’s Abuja residence at Aso Drive, Maitama.
He further told the court that he subsequently handed the money over to Lawal as exhibit.
Though Emenalo denied allegation that he received $20,000 bribe from Otedola during their first meeting, he admitted that it was during the second meeting that Otedola gave him $100,000.