In January 2012, Hon Lawan chaired the committee set up in the wake of nationwide strikes in Nigeria after President Goodluck Jonathan removed a fuel subsidy that resulted in the doubling in the price of fuel. His committee was charged with investigating the oil subsidy regime and its report revealed that companies were being paid hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies for fuel that was never delivered.
It was estimated the scam cost the country $6.8m, however, in February 2013, Hon Lawan was charged with corruption after he allegedly accepted $500,000 from Chief Otedola, a Nigerian billionaire oil tycoon, as part of a $3m bribe. Chief Otedola claimed that Hon Lawan demanded the bribe in order to have his company, Zenon, removed from the list of companies that the committee had implicated in the scandal.
Yesterday, the clerk of the committee, Hon Emenalo, told a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Lugbe, how he collected the $100,000 from Chief Otedola. In the case, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) is prosecuting Hon Lawan over the scandal.
According to Hon, Emenalo, who was testifying as the first prosecution witness before Justice Angela Otakula, he collected the sum of $100,000 from Chief Otedola in $100 bills. Under cross-examination, Hon Emenalo told the court that it was surprising when he read in the newspapers that Otedola actually gave him $120,000.
Hon Emenalo said: “I came across Femi Otedola during this assignment on April 24, 2012. I received persistent calls from Mr Otedola in the morning and reported to Lawan and he asked me to play along with him, that he was with him the previous night.
“When Otedola called again, he asked me to come over to his house and when I got there, he also confirmed that he was with my chairman the previous night. He gave me two bundles of dollar bills in $100 denominations and each bundle was $50,000 making it $100,000 that was not converted."
He added that when he got back to the office, he wrote a memo forwarding the money to his chairman that same April 24, 2012, which Hon Lawan took from him. A copy of the memo was tendered before the court and marked Exhibit PW1 C and the defence, led by Mike Ozekhome, did not object to the admissibility of the document.
However, Mr Ozekhome sought an adjournment to serve the prosecution with a notice to produce an additional statement made by the witness as contained in the prosecution’s proof of evidence. The judge adjourned the case until April 12 and 13, for continuation of trial and cross-examination.
Hon Emenalo was initially charged along with Lawan with respect to the bribery charges and both of them were first arraigned before Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi on February 2, 2013. However, a later amendment to the charges by the ICPC saw Hon Emenalo’s name removed as a defendant, making Hon Lawan now the sole accused person in the case.