From GODWIN TSA, Abuja
The bribery saga that rocked the probe of the fuel subsidy payments to oil marketers has finally taken another dimension as Lagos-based multi-billionaire oil magnate, Femi Otedola, has sued the Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and former chairman of the House ad -hoc committee on the probe, Hon. Lawan Farouk, for N250 billion.
In the suit filed before an Abuja High Court by his counsel, Chief Babajide Koku [SAN], the business mogul is claiming the amount as compensation for business losses he suffered by the actions of the two defendants.
In the suit filed by Chief Koku, the Zenon Oil boss is claiming N100 billion as general damages for acts of intimidation, loss of good-will and patronage occasioned by the actions of the Speaker and Lawan. Otedoloa who filed the action with his Zenon Petroleum and Gas Company, is further claiming N150 billion against the defendants as exemplary damages for their alleged oppressive and arbitrary actions against him and his company.
He averred in his 28-point statement of claim that by resolution of January 8 this year, the House set up an ad-hoc committee to verify and determine the actual subsidy amount made to oil companies and to also monitor the implementation of the subsidy.
Besides, he claimed that Lawan later allegedly contacted and informed that his company was going to be indicted for purchasing foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) without importing fuel. The businessman said that in spite of his explanations, Lawan allegedly demanded $3million bribe to enable Zenon Oil get a clean bill of health.
He said that Lawan resorted to persistent phone calls threatening him that his company would be included in the list of indicted oil importers and that the image and reputations of Zenon Oil would be greatly affected unless he pays the $3million. Faced with the unrelenting barrage of intimidating phone calls, the plaintiff claimed that he became distressed and reported the unlawful demands to the security agencies.
He said that he was advised by security agents to play along by giving marked money to Lawan with a view to gather evidence for the nefarious activities. Otedola alleged that the situation got to the peak on April 18 when the fuel subsidy probe report was submitted indicting Zenon Oil.
The plaintiff said that in spite of the on-going police investigation, the Speaker and Hon. Lawan have allegedly conspired to re-list his firm among the indicted companies to embarrass him and his business corporate image. He claimed that the purpose of re-listing Zenon Oil was to force and intimidate him to drop his complaints against Lawan.
Otedola asked the court to award him N250billion for the grave injuries done to his reputation and business image resulting in the substantial loss of goodwill and patronage of the business built over the years. However, Hon Tambuwal and Lawan have filed an objection to hearing of the suit by an Abuja High Court, claiming that it is only the Federal High Court that can adjudicate over such a matter.
The objection was filed by Mr.Kehinde Ogunuwuniju from the chambers of Chief Afe Babalola (SAN). Justice Peter Kekemeke of the Abuja high Court has, however, adjourned the case till November 23.