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Why I Set Farouk Lawan Up – Femi Otedola

 Femi
Otedola is known as a quiet and easy businessman who tries everything
not to be in the news for the wrong reasons. He was once involved in a
public ‘rofo rofo’ fight with his BFF Aliko Dangote over breach of trust
in their line of business and since then, he has kept a very low
profile.

In an exclusive interview with
THISDAY, chairman, Zenon Petroleum & Gas Ltd, Mr. Femi Otedola, who
hitherto was suspected of being behind the $3 million bribery scandal,
blew the lid on what transpired and how chairman of the ad-hoc
committee, Hon. Farouk Lawan, and the secretary of the committee, Mr.
Boniface Emenalo, had collected $620,000 from him in a sting operation
masterminded by the security agencies…….Ok na, he actually gave Farouk the first installment, when he asked him for the balance, Femi replied that he dosent have any money and then set him up. Who is deceiving him?
Continue reading……

Excerpt:
The
full details of the $3 million bribery scandal involving members of the
House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on the Fuel Subsidy probe were
revealed yesterday, as one of the major actors in the scandal has
opened up on what transpired.

The amount was part payment
for the $3 million, which he alleged Lawan had demanded from him to
exonerate Zenon Oil from the ad-hoc committee’s report. Otedola, who was opening up on the issue for the first time, narrated
how Lawan at the outset of the probe had approached him to get some
insight into the workings of the downstream oil and gas sector.


Otedola said he obliged him and ensured that his managing directors of
Forte Oil Plc and Zenon Oil appeared at the subsidy probe during its
public hearing after both companies had been invited by the committee.

During the probe, he said the committee was informed in no uncertain
terms that Zenon does not and has never made claims for subsidy payments
from the federal government, as the company was engaged solely in the
importation of diesel, a product that is not subsidised.

Zenon’s
managing director, Mr. Kanmi Kareem Otaru, during the probe had denied
that the company had anything to do with the subsidy regime. He told the
committee, “For the avoidance of doubt Zenon never participated or
benefited from the subsidy scheme or Petroleum Support Fund (PSF).”

According to him, going by the Act which established the PSF scheme,
“Zenon couldn’t participate in it because we don’t have a network of PMS
retail outlets which was one of the key criteria beneficiaries must
meet and as such we are not qualified to participate to draw from
subsidy payments on PMS. So we never collected as records will show.”

Irrespective of the clarification made at the hearing, Otedola said
Lawan still approached him a few days before the report was to be tabled
on April 18, 2012 before the House of Representatives, demanding money
so that Zenon’s name will be kept out of the report.

“When this
happened, I was very angry and reminded him that Zenon has never
participated in the subsidy scheme and that it would be criminal to rope
in the company for something it did not do.
“But Lawan responded,
stating that several other marketers were playing ball and had offered
the members of the committee large sums of money to ensure that their
companies’ names were not published in the report,” he added.


Otedola, said initially he balked at Lawan’s attempt to extort money
from him and told the legislator that he would not pay up, as Zenon had
not committed any crime.

“Then a day before the report was to be
submitted, Lawan called again, informing me that Zenon’s name had been
included in the report.

“I, of course, was very angry and asked him
to desist from his course of action, but Lawan insisted that I must pay
up as other oil marketers had done before me.”

Otedola said he could
not believe his eyes the next day when the report came out and Zenon’s
name had been listed under the category of companies that had bought
foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) but had not
imported petrol.

The amount ascribed to Zenon in the report was
$232,975,385.13. The report had recommended that Zenon and 14 other
marketers that had bought the foreign exchange be referred to the
anti-corruption agencies to determine what they used the monies for.

Otedola said at this point he again called Lawan demanding that Zenon’s
name be removed from the list, as there was no way his company could
have bought that volume of foreign exchange without importing products.

“I reminded him that the amount ascribed to Zenon was wrong as what the
company bought was over $400 million for importation of products
through the banks – Zenith, UBA and GTB – and that under Sanusi (CBN
governor) there was no way anyone could have bought that quantity of
foreign exchange and not imported the products having filled the Form M.

“Sanusi will simply clamp down on anyone who tries to pull that kind of stunt,” he said.
In spite of this, Otedola said Lawan still demanded that the members of
the committee be given money in exchange for removing Zenon’s name from
the report before it is considered in plenary by the entire House.

Otedola said he then asked how much would be required to make the committee happy, to which Lawan responded $3 million.

“I screamed at him, demanding to know why he was doing this to me. All
he said was other marketers were paying up to keep their names out of
the report so I should do likewise,” he said.
Otedola revealed that
it was this point he decided to involve the security agencies to catch
Lawan and his committee with their hands in the till.

According to
him, “As a law-abiding citizen, I decided to involve the security
agencies and they advised me to play along, which prompted me to offer
to pay part of the money with the promise that I would pay the balance
when my company’s name had been removed from the report.”

The
security agencies, he disclosed, gave him serialised dollar bills for
the sting job and there are call logs, video and audio recordings in the
possession of the agencies to confirm all that had transpired between
himself and Lawan.

He said on April 21, the Saturday before the
plenary, Lawan came in person to his residence and collected $250,000 in
cash, as the first instalment, “then the next Monday night he came and
collected another $250,000.

“On Tuesday, at 9am, just before the House commenced seating, Boniface came and collected another $120,000.”

Otedola confirmed that during the sting, Lawan and Boniface collected a
total of $620,000 in three instalments as part of the $3 million
demanded from him.

He added that with the $620,000 that had been
extorted by Lawan and the committee, during the plenary, Zenon’s name
was removed from the list of companies that had bought foreign exchange
but did not import products.

Otedola continued: “He (Lawan) now
asked for the balance of $2.5 million, but when I told him that I had no
money now that the money was in Lagos, he suggested that I should
charter a plane to fly the money from Lagos to Abuja.”

Otedola
stressed that his decision to get the law enforcement and security
agencies involved stemmed from the fact that he had not broken any law,
maintaining that as a law-abiding citizen, he was saddened by the fact
that he was being blackmailed by of all people, members of the
legislature.
“If you have information that an armed robber is come
to raid your home, won’t you notify the police? So, that was the
purpose of the sting operation.

“Besides, my integrity is paramount
to me. I started selling petroleum products 14 years ago in drums and
somebody who has never run a petrol station is trying to blackmail and
extort money from me.
“If others (marketers) have paid money, maybe
they are guilty. But I did not do anything wrong, so why should they
extort money from me? As a law-abiding citizen, I had to involve the
security agencies. Indeed, I’m very disappointed because I have worked
hard to build my business.”

Insisting that he had nothing to hide or
fear over what had happened, Otedola maintained if he was in the wrong
he would not have involved the security agencies in the first instance.

In a reference to the strong denials made by Lawan since the scandal
became public, Otedola stated, “When he (Lawan) demanded the bribe, I
called the agencies. That is because I had nothing to hide. When the
bribe was paid, why did he not call and report it to the agencies if he
had nothing to.”
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that the videotape of
the illicit transaction had been sent to the EFCC to investigate the
incident.

When contacted, the EFCC, however, said it had neither
received the videotape nor had it commenced investigations into the
bribery scandal.

EFCC Head of the Media Unit, Mr. Wilson Uwugiaren, said the allegation had not been brought to the knowledge of the commission.

According to him, the only related matter currently being handled by
the EFCC was the report of the ad-hoc committee that the commission was
studying to establish the facts and track down anyone found culpable for
the alleged mismanagement of the PSF.

Is there any hope for Nigeria?

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