In the case, Otedola is asking Justice Peter Kekemeke of an Abuja High Court to order the respondents to pay him the sum for the loss of goodwill and patronage he suffered as a result of their actions in the course of a probe into the management of fuel subsidy regime in the country.
Otedola and his company, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, told the court that they had suffered grave injuries to their reputation and business image, resulting in the substantial loss of goodwill, built over the years, because of the actions of the defendants.
They said they would rely on all call logs and audio-visual records of conversations and meetings with Lawan to prove the case.
There had been an intense public altercation between Otedola and Lawan few months back with the businessman accusing Lawan of demanding and collecting the sum of US$620,000 as part payment of a $3m bribe deal from him.
He said Lawan blackmailed in order not to mention the name of his company among those that defrauded the country during the fuel subsidy regime.
Lawan was the former chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee mandated to verify the subsidy payments.
While Lawan claimed that he actually received the sum as evidence against the oil marketer, who he said wanted to bribe him to alter the findings of the committee, Otedola insisted that he gave the cash to the lawmaker in line with a sting operation aimed at exposing Lawan’s demand for bribe.
The Federal Government has yet to commence prosecution in the case, even as the police force, which was mandated to investigate the matter, has not located the controversial bribe money.
It is not yet clear whether the government will prosecute Lawan alone, or together with Otedola. The country’s statute says both the giver and taker of bribe are guilty.
In Otedola’s suit filed by his lawyer, Mr. Babajide Koku, SAN, the businessman is asking an Abuja High Court to order Lawan, Tambuwal, the Clerk and the National Assembly, 1st to 4th defendants respectively, to pay him the combined sum of N250bn as damages.
The N250bn involves two categories of damages – N100bn as “general damages for the acts of intimidation, loss of goodwill and patronage occasioned by the acts of the defendants” and N150bn “as exemplary damages for their oppressive and arbitrary action.”
At the mention of the case on Thursday, the plaintiffs and the defendants were represented in court by their counsel.
The defence counsel, Mr. Kehinde Oguniwuniju of Afe Babalola Chambers, objected to the hearing of the suit by the Abuja High Court, arguing that it was only the Federal High Court that has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Kekemeke, however, ordered the parties to exchange processes and return on November 23, 2012, the next adjourned date in the matter.
In a July 28, 2012 statement of claim deposed to by Koku, the plaintiffs averred that after the National Assembly set up the then Lawan-headed committee to verify and determine the actual subsidy requirements and monitor the implementation of the petroleum subsidy regime in the country, the ad hoc committee contacted Otedola that his company, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, was going to be indicted for purchasing foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria without importing petroleum products, unless he (Otedola) parted with a bribe of US$3m.
Otedola said he took pains to explain to Lawan that there was no basis for such a demand, as it was not possible to purchase foreign exchange from the CBN through reputable banks without actually importing petroleum products.
After the explanation, Otedola averred that he called Lawan’s bluff, but the lawmaker persisted in calling him, threatening to include his company’s name in the list of indicted firms.