The Farouk –Otedola Deal:Inside story of their friendship and the plot to make money


By Danlami Nmodu.

Right from the start  it should be said  that this is not an attempt to exonerate any of the ‘combatants’.In fact it will be futile for anyone to attempt to stand  by anyone of them.Available facts suggest that Femi Otedola of Zenon Oil  and Farouk Lawan member House of Representatives  have been long standing friends, who worked together, some may even say plotted together on  how to make money from the Nigerian system. They had a deal.But  at some points, their divergent  interests made one to dump the other. Some of the associates of Lawan claim he was stabbed in the back. Available facts suggest he was also in the game to make money for “the committee, the party and possibly some other interests details of which are still unfolding”.It must also be noted abinitio that some of the committee member have been protesting against the fact that they knew nothing about Lawan’s moves as he made a lot of alleged solo runs.

What has been established by is that Otedola and Farouk Lawan have been the best of friends.Or better still, they belonged  to a circle of friends ;but the two of them were known to be bosom friends.While this friendship lasted, Lawan   assisted Otedola to open doors where Otedola could not reach especially during the Umaru  Musa YarAdua era.This happened a number of times.

It was this chummy relationship that ensured that  as soon as Lawan became chairman of House of Representatives Adhoc Committee to probe fuel  Subsidy  payments ,Otedola became a reliable source of information to Lawan.As soon as the committee work came about Lawan held discussions with Otedola.In fact said a source, Otedola supplied about 50% of the information on the oil market to the committee.

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It was learnt that as things progressed ,the two friends , among others ,at some point discussed the fact that pressure would naturally come from oil marketers.Otedola  seemingly talking like a good friend urged Lawan to resist such pressures which would be meant to compromise the committee.Insiders said there was actually an understanding by the two of them that even if the Committee members must make money, they should not  get money from  bribery.Otedola who is also very close to President Goodluck Jonathan suggested that  after the committee  assignment, there are other sources where the committee could be helped.And Lawan who trusted that he was relating with a friend also relaxed and agreed with the suggestion.This also implies that Lawan truly wanted to make money from the entire work  or so it seems.

Lawan’s decision to go along with any scheme that would get money for his committee was his first undoing.Truth is that having gotten  to the post as chairman of the committee he came face to face with bigger picture of some interests at play and that ought to have informed him to be careful. learnt that as Lawan started his committee work, some powerful people reached out to him .He met with President Goodluck Jonathan who had one clear demand.Jonathan said the committee could summon anyone it wanted,but urged him not to invite or  embarrass the Petroleum Affairs Minister, Diezani Allison Madueke.The committee chair told the president that was impossible because the petroleum minister was already on  the list of those invited to public hearing already.But pressure came from least expected learnt  that  someone very close to  President Jonathan (names withheld) also met with Lawan and demanded that  he should do all within his powers to ‘fire’ Diezani. It was  also learnt that Diezani herself met with Lawan and explained her predicament to him.She told him that she is a victim of  top level power play .She explained that all those seeking to crucify her were  being unfair.She maintained that since she got to the office as  minister of petroleum ,everything she has done is what  she met on the ground,she has not invented any new thing :Every petroleum minister including Obasanjo and others have done what she is doing and she has been careful enough to avoid doing things that would put her in trouble.That is why she  does not know where her alleged  sins are coming from .Lawan was said to have met with other top people.With this background, it should be clear to Lawan that he was in a shark-infested terrain, yet he proceeded to participate in a deal that would be used to get money for him and other interests.It seems rather naïve.

After the committee finished its work,Otedola started coming up with his plan.Contrary to latter day claims, sources said Lawan did not solicit for money. ”He did not ask for money.It was Otedola who called him  as he started doing his things and said they should be talking with different telephone numbers ,but unknown to Lawan his conversations were being taped.Let no one be deceived , they had both agreed that there was a way money could be raised for the committee and Peoples Democratic PDP  and other interests.The truth is that it was a major scam with a bigger picture.These guys just know how to skim money off the system and Lawan was part of it.It just happened that this particular scheme was used to rope him in and expose him as a dishonest crusader, which many believe now that he is” and insider said.

The  source said when Otedola started to raise money,Lawal thought it was based on their earlier discussion.It was also possible that Otedola also thought that with his involvement with Lawan his company would be cleared of anywrong doing .But the facts on the ground compelled the committee to include Zenon oil among those found wanting.CBN had indicated that Otedola bidded for foreign exchange which was not utilized appropriately.Otedola felt betrayed.

Though there are gaps in the tales coming from sources close to the two friends now,   learnt that Otedola  who seemed to have masked his disappointment now talked about $500,000 to be given first to Lawan  and the balance wiould  come later.Much later, Otedola called Farouk from Lagos and said the y should meet at Abuja airport where he would deliver the balance of $2.5million Dollars since the total amount of money they agreed should be made available to Lawan was  $3million .

Strangely,said a source, after the call from Otedola urging Lawan to meet him at Abuja airport, the oil mogul’s  telephone line could not be reached as he cut off communication afterwards.That was the point Farouk sensed that that something was fishy and that his friend may have chosen to play games with him.Immediately,he too  began to  take steps to cover his tracks.He made effort to get to the House of Representatives leadership and the Police and tried to intimate them that the $500,000 in his possession was  bribe money given to him by Otedola.

The House actually wanted the money publicly displayed in its chambers,but as the plan began, the party leadership got wind of this and stepped in.The party under Bamanga Tukur its national chairman  urged the House of Reps not to do so as it would embarrass the party and one of its  financiers.The House then shelved the public show of money before going on their recess.But it has also emerged that the leadership of the House  was planning  to handle the matter and Otedola as soon as they resume from their  now shortlived recess.Otedola  however got wind of the moves by the  House and moved faster to scandalize Lawan .

This turn of events has got many pundits to wonder why since it is an established fact that they were friends.But  it is now being speculated that perhaps Otedola feels he has made more useful friends in the presidency and he does not need Lawan anymore.”He does not consider Farouk useful anymore” a source said.Several sources believe that Otedola may be disappointed because  those he is working for now have long been reputed for their infamous ”use and dump” strategy.

It is also possible that the government which came under terrible pressure over the fuel subsidy probe chose to work with Otedola;and perhaps the oil magnate decide to use himself as a sacrificial lamb in order to undermine the House Report  in favour of the president.It is likely sources  said that Otedola got an understanding  from those he has chosen to help that  he may get off the hook and he decided to spearhead the campaign to’rubish the House  to make them  look useless ‘.

But President Goodluck Jonatha has dispelled reports trying to link the presidency with the on-going bribery scandal.The president in  a statement by Reuben Abati said he is committed  to ensuring that those indicted by the House subsidy probe face the music.He has already given instructions to relevant government agencies towards this goal.This may also be the first major hint to Otedola that he may be a loser in this game.Lawan is now in detention as the police are holding on to him.But the House has now resolved to ensure Otedola’s Zenon oil is indicted by its report, meaning that trouble looms ahead for Otedola in what may end up a lose-lose situation afterall.But in the PDP family affair, it may be too  early to jump to any conclusion.

Providing further insight into how the money making scam had been perfected, a source said the $3million  was to be sourced from somewhere else not from oil marketers.Such sources include refund to be made for instance by one of the money- spinning parastatals to  other agencies of  government.Some oil marketers  know how to track this frund and Otedola let Lawan know it could be the source from which money could be sourced to help  the committee and others.Some of the money will be given to the party and its cronies.Elections are coming up inEdo state and Ondo state and the party actually needs funds.Technically, these are the basic issues involved in this scandal.There may be other details which will surely come out in the fullness of time,a source could not confirm exactly where  the total sum of $620,000 given to Lawan was sourced from .

But when Lawan sensed that something was up, he started to contact the police and the House leadership because some people had gotten wind of the recordings and other moves by Otedola and had passed the message to Lawan.That was when the fuel probe chairman started to take precautionary step because he suddenly realized he was in the midst of a big betrayal.”But this should not surprise anyone” said an observer who continued “Otedola did the same thing to Aliko Dangote over the stock exchange issueby bring Dangote down there.In this case this money was meant for the committee.Otedola made the proposal that  as a friend, we want you to do a good job”perhaps in the expectation that Lawan would not embarrass him too.But Lawan who indicted other known friend of the president also chose to indict his friend as well to “balance the equation”.

But it all backfired and the anti-probe powers  moved  to try and kill the report and destabilize the has been told that part of the House of Representatives plans is to go ahead with the probe into N155 billion  Malabu Oil deals as soon as it resumes from its  recess.”All these intrigues are part of the long range missiles to destroy  the oil probe and frustrate the Malabu oil probe,” an insider said.

The source who is thoroughly disappointed with  Lawan’s alleged  “dubious moves” said “ It must also not be forgotten that  no one is trying to exonerate anybody .There was clearly an attempt to make money for the committee, the party and its cronies of the presidency.It was the sharing process that was used to rope in one of their own.I cannot exonerate Farouk.But don’t forget that he is the one that can easily be dispensed with since he is  not a financier  of the party.He is the smallest fry  to dispense with.If the party was not involved, they wouldn’t have urged the House not to embarrass anybody.”

Continuing, he added “with the new party exco, they were trying to mobilize resources  ahead of elections in Edo and Ondo states.It is not solely about Farouk alone,the party and others were involved.Now nobody is talking about Otedola and others,why?One thing I know is that it was based on friendship that Farouk(Lawan) decided to got Otedola’s house and collect the money”.

It is expected that more details will be revealed in court as Lawan has refused to hand over the bribe money to the police.He wants to have his day in court to spill the beans.

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