Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Oil magnate and a prosecution witness in the trial of former member of the House of Representatives, Faruk Lawan, Chief Femi Otedola, yesterday told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that the $500,000 he offered Lawan was from the coffers of the Department of State Service (DSS).
Lawal is standing trial before Justice Angela Otaluka of the Apo division of the court over charges of taking bribe.
While responding to a question by the defence counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Otedola said the money was given to him by the DSS after he wrote a petition against Lawan that he demanded a $3 million bribe from him to exonerate his oil company from the subsidy scam.
Otedola, under cross-examination, explained that the $500,000 formed part-payment of the $3 million that Lawan demanded. He said the money was given under the supervision of the DSS.
Explaining further, Otedola, CEO of Zenon Oil, said he petitioned the DSS immediately Lawan demanded the bribe.
“Lawan said he was going to exonerate my company after giving him the money,” Otedola told the court.
After informing the DSS, according to him, security cameras were mounted in his living room to capture the exchange of money between him and the defendant.
Asked if he had the video of the meeting, he said it was in the possession of the DSS.
He said he gave Lawan the $500,000 in two tranches of $250,000 each.
When reminded by Ozekhome that the best time “to catch a thief is when the operation is ongoing”, Otedola said he did not know why the DSS failed to arrest Lawal at that moment.
Otaluka adjourned the matter till March 8 for continuation of cross-examination of prosecution witness.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission is prosecuting Lawan for allegedly “corruptly” collecting $500,000 out of the $3 million bribe he requested from Otedola in exchange for the removal of his company’s name from the list of firms indicted by the House Committee probing the alleged abuse of the fuel subsidy regime in 2012.