In a case of hunter becoming the haunted, Femi Otedola, the embattled businessman in the eye of a $620,000 sting operation, has instituted a N250bn libel suit against the National Assembly; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal; and the lawmaker, Farouk Lawan.
Otedola is asking Justice Peter Kekemeke of an Abuja High Court, to order the respondents to pay him the sum for the loss of goodwill and patronage he suffered as a result of their actions in the course of a probe into the management of fuel subsidy regime in the country.
Otedola and his company, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, told the court that their reputation and business image had suffered grave injuries resulting in the substantial loss of goodwill, built over the years, because of the actions of the defendants.
Otedola and his company said they would rely on all call logs and audio-visual records of conversations and meetings with Lawan to prove the case.
An intense public altercation had played out between Otedola and Lawan few months back with the businessman accusing Lawan of demanding and collecting the sum of US$620,000 as part payment of a $3m bribe for exoneration deal in a House of Representatives Ad-Hoc committee verification into fuel subsidy payments.
Lawan was the former chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee mandated to verify the subsidy payments.
While Lawan claimed that he actually received the sum as evidence against the oil marketer, who he said wanted to bribe him to alter the findings of the committee, Otedola insisted that he gave the cash to the lawmaker in line with a sting operation aimed at exposing Lawan’s demand for bribe.
The Federal Government has yet to commence prosecution in the case, even as the police force, which was mandated to investigate the matter, has not located the controversial bribe money.
It is not yet clear whether the government will prosecute Lawan alone, or together with Otedola. The country’s statute says both the giver and taker of bribe are guilty.
In Otedola’s suit filed by his lawyer, Mr. Babajide Koku, SAN, the businessman is asking an Abuja High Court to order Lawan, Tambuwal, the Clerk and the National Assembly, 1st to 4th defendants respectively, to pay him the combined sum of N250bn as damages.
The N250bn involves two categories of damages – N100bn as “general damages for the acts of intimidation, loss of goodwill and patronage occasioned by the acts of the defendants” and N150bn “as exemplary damages for their oppressive and arbitrary action.”
At the mention of the case on Thursday, the plaintiffs and the defendants were represented in court by their counsel.
The defence counsel, Mr. Kehinde Oguniwuniju of Afe Babalola Chambers, objected to the hearing of the suit by the Abuja High Court, arguing that it was only the Federal High Court that has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Kekemeke, however, ordered the parties to exchange processes and return on November 23, 2012, the next adjourned date in the matter.