Chairman, House of Representatives’ ad-hoc committee that probed the fuel subsidy regime, accused of collecting a $600,000 bribe from an oil marketer, Hon. Farouk Lawan yesterday fought back. He described the allegation as part of a larger plot to discredit the report, but said the move came a little too late.
But some members of the committee also, yesterday demanded for the setting up of a probe panel to investigate the allegations against their chairman. Lawan, in a terse statement, denied dealings with any oil marketer to warrant offering him bribe on the matter.
The five-paragraph statement read: “My attention has been drawn to several newspapers and internet stories alleging that a prominent member of the House ad-hoc committee on petroleum subsidy demanded and received the sum of $600,000 as bribe from an oil marketer. “I wish to categorically deny that I or any member of the committee demanded and received any bribe from anybody in connection with the fuel subsidy probe and I believe this is evident from the thorough an in-depth manner the investigation was carried out and the all encompassing recommendations produced there from as approved by the whole House.
“The general public is hereby reminded that during and after the investigations, we have severally raised alarm on pressures on us from different quarters. In particular, I wish to refer to the front-page publication in the Leadership Weekend newspaper of 28th April 2012, captioned “Marketers Offered Subsidy Committee Planeload of Dollars,” where we alerted the public that a marketer promised to fly in a jet loaded with US Dollars which he “intended to share to both the House Leadership and members of the ad-hoc committee” to influence the outcome of the report.
“This clarification is necessary in order to clear all the insinuations being bandied about and, more importantly, to enable the government concentrate on the implementation of the report. “The present mudslinging is not unexpected in view of the calibre of people whose actions and inactions were found wanting in the report.
I am aware that in their desperation to discredit the report and divert the attention of the public from the real issues of large scale fraud in high places established in our report, a video footage displaying a caricature of my person allegedly having a dealing with a marketer reminiscent of the military era when dignitaries were invited to the Villa to watch a video clip of a phantom coup involving Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is already in circulation.
“I wish to assure all Nigerians that the sanctity of our report remains unassailable and it will be in the best interest of the country if the relevant authorities faithfully and conscientiously implement the resolutions of the House,” he said, concluding, “No amount of red herring and cheap blackmail will affect our resolve to continue to act in the best interest of the country with all the available information at our disposal; no doubt, the last has not been heard.”
The law maker who assured that he still enjoyed the support of the House leadership, denied ever privately meeting any oil marketer while his committee sat. Meanwhile, a principal officer of the House has hinted that the lawmakers may abort its recess to set up a panel to investigate the bribe allegations. This, the officer said, was in response to moves by members of the Lawan-led committee to go public by addressing a press conference to absolve themselves.
“Look, the issue is that most members now feel very bad. How would you react to a situation where only one member of the committee is alleged to be involved in a bribery and corruption case and the whole members of the House are being dragged into it? Our colleagues are demanding that the matter be brought into the open and treated with the urgency it deserves. This is what we are going to consider, and I can assure that the House will conduct an independent investigation into the matter to determine the truth.
“I can also tell you that we would not hesitate to take appropriate actions in line with our rules against whoever is found to be guilty in the investigations,” offered the member who didn’t want his name in print.