Nigerian lawmaker who sought to extort billionaire Femi Otedola bags seven years in prison

Former Nigerian lawmaker Farouk Lawan has received a seven-year prison term for attempting to extort millions of dollars from oil billionaire Femi Otedola in 2012. 

The Abuja High Court found Lawan guilty of counts one, two, and three for corruptly asking for and obtaining a bribe from Otedola to remove his Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited from a list of companies named in an alleged fuel subsidies scam, Nairametrics reported

The former lawmaker received a seven-year prison term for counts one and two and five years for the third count. However, because the sentences will run concurrently, he will spend only seven years in prison.

The sentence was handed down on June 22.

Background 

Lawan was the former chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee responsible for probing petroleum subsidies granted under former President Goodluck Jonathan. 

In 2012, Zenon was named among the companies accused of participating in a fuel subsidies scam that cost the country $6.8 billion. 

The committee stated that Zenon received $233 million from the government, but did not use the money for fuel importation, Punch reported

In 2013, BBC reported that Lawan was filmed taking $500,000 from Otedola. The payment was allegedly part of a $3-million bribe that the lawmaker solicited to remove Zenon from the companies listed in the probe. 

Apparently, Otedola had reported Lawan’s demands to the State Security Services, who subsequently carried out a sting operation.*

Lawan and his accomplice, Boniface Emenalo, claimed to have collected the funds from Otedola to expose his attempts to bribe the committee.

Emenalo then served as the secretary to the Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidies and was accused of collecting $120,000 from the tycoon.   

The court verdict will see Lawan return $500,000 to the government.

Zenon Petroleum and Gas

Otedola founded Zenon in 2003 as an indigenous company engaged in the marketing and distribution of petroleum products, with diesel and kerosene its core area of strength.

It controls a significant share of the diesel market in Nigeria.

*In law enforcement, a sting operation is a deceptive operation designed to catch a person committing a crime.

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