A businessman, Femi Otedola, on Monday told a court that he received the $500,000 used to bribe a former House of Representatives member, Farouk Lawan, from the State Security Service.Mr Otedola said this during his cross-examination by a defence lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, at the Apo Division of the FCT High Court.
He appeared as the prosecution witness in Mr Lawan’s trial after the latter was arraigned for allegedly attempting to receive $3 million from the witness, while he chaired a committee of the House of Representatives in 2012.
Mr Lawan was then chairing the committee that investigated billions spent fraudulently on petrol subsidy and the beneficiary companies. Mr Otedola, one of Nigeria’s richest persons, is in the oil and gas business.
Mr Otedola had accused Mr Lawan of blackmailing him with a request of $3 million to clear his company from the investigation.
The businessman added that he was given money after he reported Mr Lawan to the SSS in a petition.
He said the money was given to him at his residence after seven SSS officials visited him, following a petition he wrote to complain about the alleged blackmail.
Responding to a question from Mr Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, about the source of the money allegedly given to Mr Lawan, MrOtedola said: “It was handed over to me by the DSS.”
Mr Otedola added that he gave the $500,000 to Mr Lawan in two tranches of $250,000. He said the SSS had informed him that they recovered the call logs between him and other parties in the matter.
Mr Otedola, however, said his only written communication with the SSS is the petition written to the agency.
According to Mr Otedola, he was interrogated verbally by the SSS and did not make a written statement, besides his petition. Mr Otedola further said that the camera used in capturing the disbursement of the bribe to Mr Lawan was removed shortly after the defendant left with the money.
He, however, responded in the negative when asked whether his companies, Zemon Oil and gas and Forte Oil, were in the list of companies investigated by Mr Lawan’s committee.
Mr. Ozekhome questioned Mr Otedola’s account of the said bribery. He said the alleged collection of a bribe in a sting operation like that described by Mr Otedola should have included the arrest of Mr Lawan after receiving the money.
Responding to Mr Ozekhome’s submission, Mr Otedola said he had noted the need to arrest Mr Lawan but was told to wait till the matter is concluded at the committee.
Mr. Ozekhome also questioned the failure of the SSS to submit evidence of alleged calls between Mr Otedola and the other parties to the court.
Mr. Lawan was first arraigned in February 2013 along with another accused, Boniface Emenalo, for allegedly receiving $620,000 of the alleged bribe from MrOtedola and his company.
The case was then handled by Adebukola Banjoko also of the same FCT High Court.
Ms Banjoko, however, stepped down from the matter in 2014, following allegations of bias brought against her by the defence.
The charge was later amended to include only Mr Lawan who was accused of receiving $500,000 of the total bribe sum.