House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, has rejected a plea by security agents to help retrieve the $620,000 cash businessman Femi Otedola gave a lawmaker, Farouk Lawan.
The police have asked Lawan, chairman of the ad hoc committee which probed the multi-billion naira fuel subsidy scandal, to surrender the cash, which he admitted collecting. But the lawmaker says he will not give up the evidence that Otedola bribed him against his wish.
Besides, he has not shown up at the police Special Task Force (STF) probing the matter to say all he knows about the bribe.
Tambuwal is said to have rejected the request because, according to sources, “he does not want to be roped in”.
The Speaker was said to have been suspicious of why security agencies were mounting pressure on him to get the cash from Lawan.
A legislative aide said: “The Speaker turned down the request because security agencies might come up with a theory that Lawan kept the bribe with Tambuwal.
“Although the security agencies were not happy with the Speaker’s attitude, the man said as a lawyer he has enough experience to know what could happen when you are turning in evidence.
“He has fears that with a little shred of evidence, he might be roped in.”
The police yesterday reached out to principal officers of the House and influential members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to prevail on Lawan to appear before it today or face the consequences.
The House and the Police were involved in a hide and seek game yesterday.
The House said on June 6 it struck an unwritten agreement with the police hierarchy that Lawan could only be available in two weeks after it might have concluded its internal investigation into the matter.
A source said in the presence of the principal officers of the House, the police hierarchy communicated the agreement to the investigating desk.
Ahead of the police final decision on Lawan today, there were indications that five to 10 more lawmakers might be invited by the police based on audio tape of the conversation between Otedola and Lawan.
The Tide source learnt that the police may crack down on Lawan today, if he refuses to honour police invitation.
A source said: “We have sent emissaries to Lawan; they are talking to him to honour police invitation. We are hopeful that this persuasion will work.
“Let us see how it will go, but I think by the end of Thursday, Farouk must have chatted with the Police. We are just trying to be civil.”
But a member of the House said: “When some of our principal officers met with the police team on June 6, they asked the hierarchy to give them two weeks to investigate the allegation before asking Lawan to report for interrogation by the STF.
“The principal officers were obliged the two-week request. That is why Lawan has not appeared before the STF. We are only honouring our own part of the unwritten agreement.”
The source went on: “That claim by some lawmakers appears strange because Lawan is in the country for his recess. We are not aware of any agreement. With the international dimension the matter has taken, does he need two weeks to report to the police to make a statement?
“We have reached out to the House leadership through eminent Nigerians to allow Farouk to come to the police. That is the latest on this matter; let Farouk Lawan honour the police.”
It was learnt that the House leadership was battling last night to find a solution to the issue between it and the police.
A member of the House from the North East said: “For hours, Farouk Lawan met with Tambuwal and principal officers at the Speaker’s residence on Wednesday on how to handle police invitation.
“A solution is being found in such a manner that it will not affect our relationship with the police. Let them be patient.”
It was also learnt that five to 10 members of the House might also be invited by the police based on the audio and video tapes which were being shown some key House members yesterday.
The police source added: “Yes, we may invite more lawmakers, but we want to hear from Lawan first; that is the logical order. Let everybody talk to him to report by Thursday or else it may be a different story.”
The ongoing investigation has, however, created panic among House members following the rush to watch the video tape of the Otedola-Lawan game and listening to the audio tape by lawmakers
A source said: “From the tape, the negotiation was higher Otedola did not start video-taping, until when the rate was reduced to $5million. Later Otedola reduced it to $3million.
“There was another interesting aspect where Otedola told Lawan that the balance of the $3million was ready and the oil baron was asked to fly in the balance.
“Otedola said as soon as he got to Abuja , he would call Lawan but the lawmaker could be heard loudly saying: ‘It is possible we might be in the chamber but I will give you the number of a trusted hand… (A member of the House).
“The said member, who was a union activist before his election, was said to have come from a Yoruba speaking area in the North-Central zone of the country.”