Billionaire businessman and Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, Mr. Femi Otedola, told the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Lugbe, Abuja, on Wednesday that he did not mount pressure on a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr Farouk Lawan, to remove his company’s name from the list of firms indicted for fuel subsidy fraud in 2012.
Otelola, said rather, Lawan, the then Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on investigation into fuel subsidy regime in 2012, got from him $500,000 out of the $3m the lawmaker demanded.
He testified as the fifth prosecution witness in Lawan’s trial on bribery charges.
The businessman who was led by the lead prosecuting counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), said, “I could not have put pressure on him because Zenon Oil was not involved in the theft of the subsidy fund.
“He did demand. And if he did not demand, why will he collect and expect a balance of $2.5m? He mentioned to me that the $3m will be shared by himself and some other members of the House.”
He said his company was not involved in the fuel subsidy regime and there was no basis for it to be indicted, but Lawan only demanded money from him as a means of extortion.
“He mentioned to me that several companies that were involved in the scam were paying. And I reported to the DSS.”
The Federal Government, through the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, is prosecuting Lawan on amended four counts of corrupt collection of $500,000 out of the $3m bribe he allegedly requested from Otedola.
Lawan was accused of accepting $500,000 as bribe for the removal of Otedola’s company’s name, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, from the list of firms indicted by the Lawan-led House committee for allegedly abusing the fuel subsidy regime in 2012
Otedola told the court that he watched on the television how Lawan moved the motion for the removal of Zenon Oil from the list of indicted firms after receiving the $500,000.
However, he said his company was actually delisted from the list as a result of the documents supplied to show its innocence.
The defence lawyer, Mr. L. Azuka, who is of the law firm of Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), pleaded with the court to adjourn the case to afford them time to prepare for the cross examination of the witness.
Justice Angela Otaluka adjourned till January 28 for the cross-examination.