Controversy is now trailing the Channels Television’s airing of a purported audio recording of a conversation between oil marketer Mr Femi Otedola and suspended chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on the management of fuel subsidy regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan. One of the parties is contesting the authenticity of the tape.
The popular Lagos-based television station yesterday aired the controversial tape during its early morning programme, Sunrise, allegedly reflecting parts of the discussions between Otedola and Lawan that precipitated the ongoing $620,000 bribery allegation scandal.
When the lid on the sordid deal blew open, Otedola had alleged that Lawan demanded and collected the bribe. But the lawmaker has continued to maintain that he did so to use it as evidence that he had been offered a bribe by the oil marketer.
In the 81-second audio, two men were heard discussing how some money would exchange hands between them. One of them appears to be on an aircraft about to travel to a destination – China.
Their conversation centres on how the “balance of $2.5 million” will be passed from one person to the other with one of the two giving a phone number of an aide he named as “TJ” to the other, asking him to give the said money to the person.
He said he would be “busy in the chambers” by the time the other person’s messengers arrived with the said money.
A transcript of the conversation is as follows:
Otedola: How are you, sir? I don’t want to bring it to my house.
Lawan: Oh, you would take it to your house
Otedola: No, I don’t want to bring it to my house; it is a lot of money.
Lawan: Err… so where? Because I’m rushing to the… they are at the airport now?
Otedola: Yes, they are in the airport, in the aircraft.
Lawan: Well, I can’t come over now and, before they can come over now... unless I send somebody to, but I can’t because…by the time they come I should be…I have a lot of things to do myself.
Otedola: Is there anybody you think I can give it to or maybe I should just postpone my trip to China till tomorrow?
Lawan: No, no it’s Ok…I’ll arrange it with someone…let me give you his number... 080...
Otedola: Hold on, hold on
Otedola: (repeats number after him)What’s the name?
Lawan: aaarrh… TJ
Lawan: No, TJ
Otedola: OK. So I will give him the balance; that is erm… $2.5 million, yea?
Lawan: That’s right. Hold on. I’m calling him to be sure his phone is on...
But Lawan has through one of his lead lawyers, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, faulted the genuineness of the tape, saying that the tape was doctored.
Ozekhome, who stated this in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, added that the audio is infertile, vague, puerile and inadmissible in evidence by any court of law or tribunal.
According to Ozekhome, he (Otedola) will certainly require forensic evidence to prove this to be true in this highly technologised world of manipulative evidence that can easily turn a man into a woman.
In the statement entitled, “That funny, phoney, satanic and manipulated audio aired on Channels Television concerning Mr. Farouk Lawan,” Ozekhome said: “Professionally, Channels did make the vital point that the audio was ‘purported to be their voices’. One simple question here: where is the visual of the audio? Recall that Mr. Otedola had told the whole world that he used the SSS to carry out a so-called “sting operation”, which showed Farouk Lawan not only pocketing $500,000, but also putting some under his cap, in Mr Otedola’s Lagos home. On Farouk’s instructions, we had debunked this allegation and challenged Mr Otedola, or the police and SSS to produce this complete audio-video, unedited and undoctored.
“Mr Otedola had the opportunity of doing this through Channels TV. But he did not. Rather, he brought highly doctored, manipulated and incomprehensible voices purported to be his and Lawan’s. He will certainly require forensic evidence to prove this to be true in this highly technologised world of manipulative evidence that can easily turn a man into a woman. Certainly, the audio was a sorry anti-climax to what Nigerians had been expecting.
“Even at that, let us take the audio ‘evidence’ itself for whatever it is worth. The conversation started somewhere in the middle, not from the beginning and ended abruptly. Our client hereby still challenges Mr Otedola to air the entire audio visual and also the complete video for Nigerians to see the setting and environment in which the alleged bribe took place, who said what, to whom and for what.
“Secondly, our client believes that the entire footage is devilish, satanic, luciferous, mischievous and completely taken out of context. Even then the audio shows that it is Mr Otedola offering to pay the balance of the alleged bribe of $2.5 million, not Mr Farouk Lawan.
Even from what was said, there was no mention of the purpose of the alleged balance of $2.5 million, or any mention of Mr Otedola’s indicted companies, Zenon Oil and AP Petroleum, whose desired removal from the committee’s indicted companies’ list allegedly formed the fulcrum of the bribe itself. If it was actually a “sting operation”, why is it Mr Otedola and not the SSS officially releasing it on Channels TV? The audio has raised more questions and doubts than answers. Mr Farouk Lawan says it is a doctored anti-climax.”
We got tape from reliable source - Channels
When contacted over the controversy last night, Channels Television insisted that it sourced the tape from a reliable source and challenged anyone who doubts its authenticity to prove his case to the public.
Speaking through one of its editorial officials who craved anonymity, the station said, “We sourced the tape from a reliable source. We are challenging those who hold contrary views that the tape is doctored to prove their case to the public.”