The directive to police to investigate the bribery allegations against the Chairman of the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on fuel subsidy, Mr. Farouk Lawan, may have originated from the Presidency.
The Chairman of Zenon Oil and Gas, Mr. Femi Otedola, had two weeks ago levelled a $620,000 bribery allegation against Lawan and the Secretary of the committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo.
SATURDAY PUNCH learnt that the investigation into the bribery scandal, contrary to the belief of many political observers, was not an independent decision of the police.
The police and the State Security Service are also said to be at loggerheads over the matter, as the latter has refused to release items of the sting operation on the bribery scandal to the former.
SATURDAY PUNCH investigation showed that the police acted on a letter from a Senior official in Presidency (name withheld).
A reliable source in the Presidency told SATURDAY PUNCH that in the letter dated May 2, 2012, a presidential aide reported a case of conspiracy and bribery involving some members of the House committee.
The source explained that it was the letter, with reference number PRES/24/IGP/55, that made the police headquarters to swing into action on June 6, when it directed a Special Task Force to conduct “a discreet investigation” into the matter.
He said, “It is not true that the police began their investigation after reading a story published by a national newspaper on April 28.
“Although the story was published on the 28th, the police did not deem it fit to investigate the allegation until May 2, when the letter came from the Presidency.
“The police actually acted on the letter from the Presidency, not the publication in the national newspaper. The Presidency is aware of the police investigation right from the outset. In fact, it is its idea.”
He, however, did not rule out the fact that the publication was useful for the police in their investigation.
In the story, oil marketers were reported to have offered a plane load of dollars to the fuel subsidy committee.
President Goodluck Jonathan had on June 14 denied the insinuation that his government was orchestrating the $620,000 bribery scandal.
His spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, in a statement, had said, “Both the bribery allegation and the report are before security agencies and they will do a thorough job on both of them.”
Investigations showed that the original aim of the letter was not to take sides with either Lawan or Otedola, but for the police to conduct an unbiased investigation into the matter.
It was, however, gathered that the security agencies were cautious in handling the case because of the perceived closeness of Otedola to the Presidency.
The Presidency source, who spoke with SATURDAY PUNCH, also faulted the claim that the police investigation was targeted at the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, because of his speech at the last Democracy Day lecture.
The Speaker had criticised the President for not signing bills passed by the National Assembly.
The source said, “The Presidential aide reported the case to the police on May 2, while Tambuwal made his speech on May 29.
“But so far, there has not been any interference in the investigation from any quarters, including the Presidency.”
It was learnt that the investigation of the Police Special Task Force was hampered by the non-cooperation of the SSS.
It was gathered that the police had in a letter dated June 13, 2012, requested the Director of the SSS to release the call logs of persons involved in the case.
The STF has not also got the original video of what transpired between Otedola and Lawan.
The police, it was also learnt, had not received the details of the money given to Lawan and Emenalo.
A senior security agent, on the condition of anonymity, said, “The SSS is adamant in releasing the original video and serial numbers of the money given to Lawan and Otedola.
“This really delayed the police investigation. But we have concluded our investigation into the matter.”
The Zenon chairman had in an interview with a national newspaper two weeks ago said the marked dollar bills given to Lawan and Emenalo were collected from the SSS.
According to him, the sting operation, which was supervised and recorded with a camera by the SSS, took place on April 24.
The STF official, who confirmed the frosty relationship between the police and the SSS on the issue said, “It seems the SSS does not trust us (the police) because I do not see the reason why the original of the video and serial numbers of the money have not been released.”
He lamented that the failure to get necessary exhibits had not allowed the STF to determine whether Otedola should be prosecuted too.
“But Lawan and Emenalo, based on what the Minister of Justice thinks, will be prosecuted,” he added.
The police officer stated that the STF hoped that when prosecution commenced, the SSS would be subpoenaed to “bring the required items for necessary action.
“As things stand now, those items are needed to determine the status of Otedola on the issue.”
Findings showed that the police extended their investigation to a hotel in Abuja, where Lawan stayed on April 23 and 24.
The former committee chairman was said to have collected $250,000 from Otedola at the hotel.
It was learnt that the hotel management confirmed that Lawan lodged there in those days, but did not know what happened between him and his guests.
Investigations showed that during interrogation, Lawan refused to provide details of his bank accounts and property to the police.
The PUNCH had on Friday written the Financial Intelligence Unit to get details of his accounts.
SATURDAY PUNCH gathered that the STF had established that there was an exchange of money between Otedola, Lawan and Emenalo to the tune of $620,000.
The investigating team had discovered that the purpose of exchanging the money was to pervert justice.
The case file, the police source said, had been forwarded to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), for legal advice.