A Nigerian parliamentarian serving as the chairman of a committee investigating suspected corruption in the country's refined fuel industry has been detained over allegations that he accepted a bribe from a businessman implicated in its report.
Farouk Lawan, a member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) from northern Kano state, headed the parliamentary probe investigating allegations of massive fraud in the fuel subsidy system and was subsequently found to have leaked up to USD6.8 billion over the past three years in misappropriations and embezzlement. The allegations against Lawan surround his alleged acceptance of a bribe from businessman Femi Otedola to wipe a company, Zenon, from the list of parties suspected to have been involved in -the alleged widespread collusion between the country's Oil Ministry and private fuel companies to inflate prices and draw payments for non-existent shipments, according to a Reuters report citing the parliamentary resolution suspending Lawan.
According to local media reports, Otedola is claiming that Lawan solicited a bribe from him to expunge his company from the report and captured the lawmaker accepting the payment on a hidden camera in order to implicate him. Lawan remains in custody and has yet to make a claim of innocence or file an official plea. House Speaker Aminu Tambuwal told reporters the investigation into the fraud would not be compromised, saying the Lawan allegations had in no way "eroded the integrity of the outcome of our investigation into the management of fuel subsidy".
Significance:The allegations against Lawan, although localised, threaten to undermine domestic and international confidence in corruption in the fuel subsidy regime, and underline the opacity of the relationship between the oil industry and the Nigerian government. As head of the fuel subsidy probe, however, it is also possible that Lawan has been the victim of an attempted smear campaign from an oil tycoon (Otedola) angry at the inclusion of his company on the damning report.
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