Nigeria channel broadcasts purported oil bribe tape
7/2/2012 6:40:04 PM -
LAGOS (AFP) - A Nigerian news channel on Monday broadcast what it said was a recording of a conversation in which the lawmaker who led an explosive oil graft probe arranged a bribe payment from an industry magnate.
Claims that Farouk Lawan solicited a $3 million dollar bribe from Femi Otedola as payment for removing the Zenon oil firm from the probe's report have dominated Nigerian news headlines in recent weeks.
Rumours of the tape's existence have been central to the scandal.
The allegations have also undermined the findings of Lawan's committee, which reported that $6.8 billion (5.3 billion euros) were lost through a graft-ridden fuel subsidy programme between 2009-2011.
The Channels television network said the recording is "purported to be part of the conversation between Honourable Farouk Lawan and Mr Femi Otedola over the $3 million bribery allegation scandal."
Channels executives contacted by AFP declined to disclose how the tape was obtained.
National police spokesman Frank Mba said he had not yet reviewed the excerpts broadcast.
"I have not heard it and not seen it and in any case we have our own ongoing investigation (into the bribery allegations) and we do not want to be distracted," he told AFP.
Police quizzed Lawan over the allegations on June 15 and Nigeria's lower house of parliament has suspended the embattled lawmaker as the committee head.
In the recording, the voice said to be Otedola's asks how the outstanding bribe money should be delivered as Lawan is unavailable to meet.
"Is there anybody you trust I can give it to?" Otedola asks.
"It's OK. I will arrange with someone. Let me give you his number," the purported Lawan voice replies.
Later, the supposed Otedola voice says: "I will give him the balance. That is 2.5 million dollars, yeah?"
"That's right," the tape concludes.
Some have speculated whether powerful interests implicated in the graft probe are seeking to smear Lawan and scuttle the report.
Nigeria's justice ministry last month vowed to investigate all parties named in the report, vowing "there will be no sacred cows."
The popular fuel-subsidy programme was designed to keep petrol prices low in Africa's biggest oil producer but was found to be riddled with corruption and mismanagement.