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.”
Sanwo-Olu Assures On Reduction Of Food Prices
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has assured residents of the state that the various interventions by his administration in the agriculture sector would soon put an end to the astronomic rise in food prices in the market.
The governor gave the assurance on Friday at the flag-off of distribution of agricultural productive assets and inputs under the 2021 Agricultural Value Chains Enterprise Activation Programme, with over 3000 agripreneurs empowered.
Sanwo-Olu said that breaking the shackle of dependency on foreign countries and states for food supplies was in line with his administration’s THEMES agenda for job and wealth creation as well as food sufficiency.
He stated that the empowerment scheme was a demonstration to the development, expansion and growth of agriculture in Lagos by providing tools, deploying innovation and creativity that would make it easier for all farmers to grow high quality crops, thereby raising their inputs to feed Lagosians and Nigerians.
The governor said that his administration was putting in place various interventions which included wholesale agriculture hub, urging farmers, youths and beneficiaries to work hard to nurture their businesses to maturity by building a sustainable wealth.
“We have emerged wiser and more determined to succeed in creating and nurturing a viable agribusiness sector in Lagos State. We may be Nigeria’s smallest state by land mass, lacking the large tracts of land available to others, but we will not allow that to stand in the way of our vision.
“We will maximise the little we have, while also deploying the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit we are known for, to create new opportunities to feed ourselves and feed Nigeria, and create economic growth and prosperity through agriculture”, he said.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Abisola Olusanya, said that 70 per cent of the beneficiaries of the programme were youths and women chosen from the Lagos Agripreneurship programme (LAP), Agric YES programme, and value chain associations.
By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
Monorail Project, A Waste Of Rivers Resources – GDI
The Monorail Project that was abandoned by the Chibuike Amaechi-led administration in Rivers State has been described as a complete waste of state resources.
President-General of the Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI), worldwide, Bright Amehule, in an interaction with journalists at the weekend, alleged that the former state governor used the monorail project to squander Rivers money.
He said that the monorail was not desirable as at when it was embarked upon, adding that the money sunk into the project would have been used for more people oriented projects.
According to the GDI boss, the state has not reached the stage where the monorail is necessary.
“We have not reached the stage of development where we will need monorail. Where is the power to run it ? We have not grown to the stage to run it, as we have observed in other developed countries.
“We need power to run the monorail, but even the power project former governor Peter Odilli executed was sold by Amaechi. He squandered the money he sold the power project built by Odili without giving account of it.
“There is just little to show for the huge amount of money spent on the monorail and the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority”, he said.
On account of his stewardship as the coordinator of taskforce on Street Trading and Illegal Parking, Amehule said that he performed his duties well, but pointed out that no individual can satisfy everybody, irrespective of how the person tries.
He said that the state government engaged over 600 youths as task force men, adding that the state government is doing its best to ensure youths employment in the state.
According to him, the state government has taken steps to provide employment through numerous projects such as the Cassava Plant at Oyigbo, the recent partnership with South Korea, numerous construction works being handled by Julius Berger, and the expansion of the Rivers State University, among others.
By: Corlins Walter
SON Procures Warehouse For Goods’ Testing
In a bid to stop the practice of arresting containers released at the seaports on the highways by its officials, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has procured a warehouse around the port where suspicious goods will be taken to for testing.
The Director General, SON, Mallam Farouk Salim who disclosed this at a one day capacity building workshop for journalists organized by SON in Lagos, recently, said that rather than blocking suspicious goods at the port and delay other legitimate businesses coming through, they would just take those containers to their warehouse and conduct their test.
Salim explained that after testing, if the goods were found to be okay, they would release them but if the goods were found not to be okay, they (SON officials) would show those individuals how to fix the products if the products were fixable, adding that where they were not fixable; the SON would destroy them in line with their mandate.
Salim explained that the idea was to encourage ease of doing business at the seaport, saying the organisation does not want bottlenecks and bureaucracy that would stop people from achieving their legitimate goals.
He assured that the SON management would continue to rejig the system to make it more efficient.
According to him: “We have done so many changes over the years. For example, we have our own warehouse right by the port where goods that are suspicious, instead of blocking them in the port and delay other legitimate businesses coming through, we just take those containers to our warehouse which are nearby and because we have a very high professional and efficient lab in this country, we do our test, if the goods are okay, we release them. If the goods are not okay, we show those individuals how to fix those products if they are fixable, if they are not fixable; we destroy them which is our legitimate mandate by the government and by the National Assembly”.
He emphasised that it was the SON’s responsibility to make sure that every goods that enter the country are up to standard.
He said: “We make sure there are consequences to any product and that any person producing substandard products will have to pay one way or the other. We will have to make sure that there are consequences for individuals buying fake products and injuring our people. We are to make sure manufacturers of goods; building materials are up to standards because collapsing buildings are not discriminatory.
“We, as an organisation, are committed to improving our responsibility. If we expect standards from people, we have to three times inspect how we handle ourselves. So, over the years, we have collaborated with market associations, we have collaborated with importers’ associations even though our responsibility is primarily to help our local producers but Nigeria has importers and they are legitimate businessmen and they are importing things that are needed in Nigeria. So, our responsibility is to make sure that whatever comes to this country is standard, is good, is not going to harm our people and our local industry”.
By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
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