Nigeria anti-graft lawmaker charged with $3 million bribe

Fri Feb 1, 2013 6:43am EST
 

By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA (Reuters) - A lawmaker who led a corruption probe into Nigeria's fuel subsidy last year was charged on Friday with accepting a $3 million bribe from a billionaire oil tycoon to remove his company from the list of fraudsters.

Nigerian legislator Farouk Lawan blew the lid on a $6.8 billion scam in a state fuel subsidy, exposing a web of fraudulent transactions that enabled corrupt officials and fuel marketers to grow rich, often without delivering a drop of fuel.

He pleaded not guilty in court on Friday to four counts of bribery brought against him by the federal government and his supporters say he is being targeted by those implicated in his investigation.

Africa's largest crude exporter has to import 80 percent of its fuel needs because its refineries are in disrepair. The government pays a subsidy on the fuel, which breeds corruption and is the single biggest drain of the federal budget.

Lawan's arrest risks discrediting his findings, although two subsequent independent probes have come to similar conclusions.

He is accused of taking $500,000 - part of an agreed $3 million bribe - from Femi Otedola, one of Nigeria's richest men, to keep his oil firm Zenon Petroleum out of his report.

"You Farouk Lawan ... in the course of your official duty corruptly asked for the sum of $3 million for yourself from Femi Otedola ... to afterwards show favor to Femi Otedola," charges read in the Abuja High Court said.

The judge ordered that Lawan be remanded in police custody until a bail hearing on February 8.   Continued...