Contrary to previous speculations, the Department of State Security set up the gadgets to record former House of Representatives chairman on subsidy scam, Farouk Lawan, as he pocketed $500,000 on April 24, 2012!
He demanded $3 million to shave off Zenon Petroleum & Gas from the list of subsidy fraudsters, in spite of the company’s clean records of not being involved!
Billionaire Femi Otedola revealed details of the sting operation as he was led in evidence on Wednesday, November 21, 2018, before Justice Angela Otaluka, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory.
Led in evidence by Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, Otedola told the court, after taking the oath with a bible, that he’s known the defendant for about 6 years, but that they were not friends.
He narrated further and we paraphrase:
“As chairman of AP and CEO of Zenon, l found out that companies were defrauding the government by getting subsidies on petroleum products they didn’t import, around 2010. And l sought audience with the President (Dr. Goodluck Jonathan), told him about the subsidy scam and how much the country was losing. The President later told me he’s consulted the Minister of Petroleum Resources (Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke) who denied any such looting!
“I then reached out to Senator Bukola Saraki who raised the issue in the Senate. Thereafter, the House of Representatives set up a panel to investigate the theft of subsidy on petrol.
“The defendant (Farouk Lawan) reached out to me, and l gave him details of how the scam was perpetrated. Eventually, the companies were invited and the then General Manager of AP (Mr. Otaru) interfaced with the committee, availed them all importation documents.
“The defendant later visited me in Abuja, threatening to insert Zenon in the list of subsidy thieves and demanded $3 million for exclusion. But l reiterated that Zenon only imports diesel and not petrol!
“He asserted that other companies had paid the bribes. This is extortion, I told him.”
The committee went on to indict Zenon on April 18, 2012, as list of alleged subsidy thieves was broadcast on NTA.
“Once l saw Zenon on the list, I wrote a petition to the Director General of DSS to complain. And thereafter, the DSS contacted me that a sting operation would be planned. Mr. Caleb, an officer in DSS, intimated me that serialized dollar notes will be made available to me to give the defendant and video recording gadgets will be installed in my living and dining rooms.
“6 DSS officers did the installation. And l was handed $620,000 in serialized notes.
“Thereafter, the defendant called me, reiterated that if l paid the $3 million bribe, Zenon will disappear from the list. I was upset because Nigeria lost about N1 trillion in the scam.
“But l followed through the instructions of DSS and played along.
“And on April 24, 2012, the defendant came to my house between midnight and 1 am, and l handed $500,000 of DSS serialized notes to him. And asked him, what next? He promised to discuss with the leadership of the House of Representatives. That l should watch the plenary on television. I .maintained that it was impossible for Zenon to obtain $232 from CBN without importing the products.
“He left. And later, l watched on television where the defendant applied for Zenon to be removed from the list. And it was.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission investigated the scam, and absolved Zenon of complicity.
“In the morning of April 24, 2012, the secretary of the committee informed the then General Manager of AP that he needed to see me. And l handed to him (the secretary) $120,000 of the DSS serialized notes.
“Once Zenon was removed, the defendant called for the balance of $2.5 million, and l told him it was being arranged. That it would be loaded to an aircraft. And he was eager to know when the aircraft will arrive Abuja, and said he’ll give me the name of the person who will collect the cash on his behalf.
“The meeting in my house was recorded and l also saw the video on social media.”
The video was played in court, and Otedola identified the parties in it (Farouk Lawan and himself). He explained that the parcel handed to Lawan was the $500,000 serialized notes from DSS. Lawan mentioned the balance of $2.5 million in the video.
“I was later invited by the Police,” Otedola mentioned in court. “And l wrote a statement of the details of what happened. I didn’t put any pressure on the committee because it was unnecessary since Zenon was not involved in the scam. EFCC later investigated and prosecuted companies involved. Zenon didn’t import petrol and never applied for subsidy.”
The counsel to the defendant (Sekop Zumka) sought an adjournment because the lead counsel, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and another senior lawyer, were absent. She claimed she was recovering from typhoid fever and couldn’t go on to cross-examine Otedola.
In spite of Awomolo’s objection, the judge adjourned to January 28, 2019, at 10 am “in the interest of justice.”