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Former co-accused to Farouk Lawan, the ex-Chairman, House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Boniface Emenalo has said he accepted the $100,000 offered members of the committee by businessman, Femi Otedola with the intention of exposing his (Otedola’s) plot to influence the outcome of their investigation.
Emenalo, who the prosecution later substituted as its witness, leaving only Lawan as the accused, spoke Tuesday while testifying in Lawan’s trial before a High Court of the Federal Capital territory (FCT) in Lugbe, Abuja.
Lawan is being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) for allegedly “corruptly” collecting $500,000 out of the $3m bribe he requested from Otedola.
Lawan is accused of accepting the bribe in exchange for the removal of Otedola’s company’s name, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd from the list of firms indicted by the House committee for allegedly abusing the fuel subsidy regime in 2012.
Emenalo, who had on March 7, 2016 given details of how he collected the $100,000 from Otedola in $100 bills, denied Tuesday, while being cross-examined by Lawan’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), some of the allegations against Lawan by the prosecution.
The witness said, on Otedela’s invitations, he met with him (Otedole) on April 22, 2012 and on Tuesday April 24, 2012 at his home in Aso Drive, Maitama, Abuja.
He said at his first meeting with Otedola, they had discussions on issues including those relating to the work of the committee and areas he (Otedola) could make suggestions.
Emenalo denied receiving $20,000 bribe from Otedola during their first meeting.
The witness confirmed that it was during the second meeting that Otedola gave him the $100,000 which he claimed to have handed to Lawan as exhibit.
“The money I collected from Mr. Otedola was meant to be an exhibit to prove that members of the ad-hoc were being pressurised. I informed my chairman (Lawan) and handed over the money my chairman.”
When asked to read part of the two statements he made to the police during the investigation, he insisted that Otedola gave the money to him as a bribe.
The statements, one of which was dated June 14, 2012 and the other undated were tendered by Ozekhome and admitted as exhibits without any objection from the prosecuting lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN).
Emenalo confirmed that Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd belonging to Otedola was one of the companies indicted by the ad-hoc committee for obtaining foreign exchange for importation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) under the fuel subsidy scheme, but diverted it.
He said Zenon got $232,975,385.13 foreign exchange, but failed to use the money for fuel importation.
The witness also said Otedola wrote a complaint letter to the secretariat of the committee on April 18, 2012 asking for his company’s name to be removed from the list of indicted firms.
He said his committee could not do anything on his case, because by then, the report had been submitted on the floor of the House.
Emenalo denied calling the then Managing Director of Zenon Petroleum, Kareem Otaru, to ask for direction to Otedola’s house.
When told that Otaru had claimed in his statement that that he (the witness), was the one who called to ask for direction to Otedola’s house, Emenalo said, “never; I did not call him. He was the one who called me. I will be very surprised if he said I called him, asking for Mr. Otedola’s house,” he said.
The witness equally denied collecting Otedola’s phone number from Otaru.
In his evidence-in-chief, Emenalo had, on March 7, 2016 said, “I came across Femi Otedola during this assignment on April 24, 2012. I received persistent calls from Mr. Otedola in the morning and reported to Lawan and he asked him to play along with him and that he was with him the previous night.
“When Otedola called again, he asked me to come over to his house, gave me the discription, when I got there, he also confirmed that he was with my chairman the previous night. He gave me two bundles of dollar bills in $100 denomination. Each bundle was $50,000 making it $100,000 that was not converted.
“When I got back to the office, I wrote a memo forwarding the money to my chairman that same April 24, 2012 which he took from me.”
A copy of the memo was admitted by the court in evidence. Emenalo concluded his evidence Tuesday when defence lawyer, Ozekhome told the court he was through with his cross examination of the witness.
The trial continues today.