True words are not defined by the volume of a man’s voice, but by the consequence of his choices. Ask Femi Otedola. The billionaire magnate would never use gilded words to masque deceit neither does he brandish fickle principles and statistics to conclude with a false truth. Unlike many a rabble-rouser, who flashes documents to lock down evidence but never real facts to back their proof, Otedola has revealed the depth of decadence and negligence that aided and abetted corruption in the oil sector during ex-President, Goodluck Jonathan’s regime.
But he to achieve his aim, he did not spin tales out of thin air, neither did he attempt to cut through decency like a butcher’s knife; amid the clamour for better management of the nation’s oil sector, Otedola recently testified before an Abuja High Court Judge, laying the facts bare, about the massive corruption that afflicted the oil sector in the immediate past administration.
He revealed, among other things, how he painstakingly rebuffed overtures by the elements that be to bully and extort him. The Forte Oil boss alleged that he was the one that alerted former president Goodluck Jonathan to the fuel subsidy scam in 2010, even though he was later blackmailed by the house of reps committee that probed the fraud, he was saying the gospel truth, according to esteemed sources privy to the incident.
Otedola, while testifying at the Abuja High Court on Wednesday, as a prosecution witness in the criminal case against Farouk Lawan, who chaired the house probe committee, by the federal government stated that: “In 2010, being the chairman of African Petroleum Ltd and also the CEO of Zenon Oil and Gas Ltd, I realised that companies in Nigeria were claiming money for subsidy on petroleum products they never imported. When I saw how much was being stolen, I went to the then President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. I told him my observations. He told me later that he had consulted with the Minister of Petroleum and that there was nothing of such.
“I then reached out to Senator Bukola Saraki who raised the issue on the floor of the senate and thereafter, the house of reps set up the panel to investigate the allegation. The defendant reached out to me and I gave him the background information as to how the monies were being stolen. I gave relevant information to the ad hoc committee. I have two companies which are in the oil and gas industry which are AP and Zenon oil.”
Otedola, who owns Zenon Oil and Gas Ltd and Forte Oil (formerly called AP), told the court that when he informed Jonathan that many companies were collecting subsidy payments without importing any product, the president did not believe him.
The billionaire magnate alleged that the two companies had something to do with the defendant’s panel. “AP submitted to the committee documents regarding all the importations of the company. Mr Otaru, general manager AP, had direct contact with the defendant’s committee…On 18th of April, 2012, the defendant came to see me at my house in Abuja after the report of the committee had been laid before the house of reps in plenary.
“He told me that pursuant to what we discussed on phone while I was in the UK, he told me that he was going to indict Zenon Oil and Gas Ltd. He demanded for the sum of $3m USD to exonerate Zenon Oil. I said to him that why will he indict a company that does not import petrol but diesel. He said most of the companies indicted have paid bribe. I told him this is extortion.
“I was in Nigeria when the report was laid before the house of reps. I saw it on the television, NTA on the 18th of April 2012 and I saw that my company was listed as one of the companies involved in subsidy scam. I wrote a petition to the DG DSS to complain. When the report was laid, I was shocked and I had several calls from my international partners and my bankers.”
Otedola disclosed, that, it was after his petition to the DSS that a sting operation was set up against Lawan.
“After my petition to the DG DSS, I received a call from the DSS official, one Mr Caleb ,who told me that they were going to carry out a sting operation. He told me that I would be provided with serialised USD to give to the defendant and they were going to install video recording gadgets in my living and dining rooms. About six operatives of the DSS did the installation.
“I was given 620,000 USD serialised dollars. After the report was laid on the floor of the House of Reps, the defendant called me that if I made $3million USD available, he would exonerate my company. I said to him that this is unfair to a country that has lost about the sum of N1trn to subsidy scam. I took the instruction of the DSS and I agreed to play along,” he said.