Billionaire 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.
He said he got the cooperation of the DSS to carry out the sting operation and they gave him the funds to confirm the alleged bribe that had been demanded by the former legislator
Otedola who adorned a white flowing Agbada made the revelation during his cross-examination by a defence lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN 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 fraudulently diverted by some companies in thr petrol subsidy scheme.
Mr Otedola, a Forbes Listed billionaire had accused Mr Lawan of blackmailing him with a request of $3 million to remove the name of his company Zenon Petrolem from the list of indicted companies.
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, Mr Otedola 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.
Queried by Ozekhome on why the defendant was not apprehended immediately he was caught red-handed, the witness said he did not know why DSS failed to arrest Lawan the moment he was receiving the said bribe.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, had in the charge before the court, alleged that Lawan and the Secretary of the then Reps Committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, demanded an aggregate sum of $3 million, with a view to ensuring that Otedola’s company escaped prosecution.
Lawan was said to have pocketed $620,000 as part payment for the illegal deal.
Though the anti-graft agency initially charged the duo for bribery and corruption, it later amended the charge and converted Emenalo to a prosecution witness.
Mr Lawan was first arraigned in February 2013 along with Boniface Emenalo, for allegedly receiving $620,000 of alleged bribe from Mr Otedola.
Meanwhile, Justice Otaluka has adjourned the matter till March 8 for Otedola to be further cross-examined.