$620,000 Bribe: Court Rules On Lawan, Emenalo's Application May 2
SAN FRANCISCO, April 10, (THEWILL) - Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of an Abuja High Court, Wednesday, fixed May 2 for ruling in the application to quash the charges brought against the embattled former chairman of the House of Representatives' adhoc committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, Farouk Lawan, and the Secretary of the Committee, Boniface Emenalo.
The duo are facing charges of receiving $620,000 from businessman, Femi Otedola, to influence the report of the committee in favour of Zenon Oil and Gas Limited.
Lawan had repeatedly denied Otedola’s accusations, saying he collected the $620,000 as evidence to expose the businessman’s attempts to bribe him.
Lawan and Emenalo had also pleaded not guilty to the charges and had since been admitted to bail by the trial judge.
When the case came up for hearing, Wednesday, their lawyer, Mr. Rickey Tarfa, SAN , said the court ought not to have granted the application for leave to prefer the charges because the prosecution failed to provide adequate materials necessary for the judge to exercise his discretion to grant the application.
He also insisted that ruling on the application to quash the charges must first be made before hearing could continue in the case, thus stalling further progress on the case earlier scheduled for Wednesday.
Arguing the application to quash the charges, Tarfa asked the court to discharge the accused since no prima facie case had been made against them, saying the foundation of the case against them was not legally laid.
According to him, the prosecutor failed to comply with the provisions of section 155 (1)(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code which required that statements of witnesses be attached to the application to prefer charges.
Although the trial was scheduled to commence Wednesday, Tarfa argued that the court must first hear and determine the application to quash the charges.
He said that the application to quash the charges also challenged the jurisdiction of the court to conduct the trial.
But the prosecutor, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, asked the court to dismiss the application even as he described it as a tactic to waste the time of the court.
He said the Supreme Court had held in many cases that the purpose of seeking for leave of court's to prefer charges was to ensure that frivolous criminal charges were not filed and not to allow the accused persons to see the details of the charges against them.
Awomolo said the charges remained valid , adding that non-attachment of witnesses' statement did not vitiate the legality of the charges.
He cited the Supreme Court's judgment in the case of the Federal Government V Adolphos Wabara to support his argument that the leave granted for the trial to commence was proper.
Lawan and Emenalo were said to have violated the provisions of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission Act.
Count one of the charge reads, “That you, Farouk Lawan (M) and Mr. Emenalo Boniface (M) sometime in April 2012 or thereabouts in Abuja within the Federal Capital Territory under the jurisdiction of this honourable court did while acting in the course of your official duties as Chairman and Secretary (respectively) of House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime conspired between yourselves and with each other to corruptly obtain the sum of $3,000,000 for yourselves from Mr. Femi Otedola, Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, as inducement to remove the name of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd from the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime’s Report and did cause the House to remove the name of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd from the said list and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 26(1)(c) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other-Related Offences Act, 2000, and punishable under section 8(1) of the same Act.”
In count two, Lawan was accused of corruptly asking for $3,000,000 from Otedola with the intention of favouring him (Otedola) in the report of the adhoc committee, an offence punishable under section 8(1) of the same Act.
In count three, Lawan was said to have corruptly agreed to accept the $3,000,000, count four indicated that he obtained $500,000 from Otedola Otedola.
Count five accused Emenalo of asking for$3,000,000 for himself from Otedola as a bribe, an offence punishable under section 8(1) of the ICPC 2000 Act.
The prosecution alleged in count six that Emenalo was offered bribe by Otedola but he failed to report the offer to any officer of the ICPC, an offence contrary to section 23(1) of the ICPC Act, 2000, and punishable under section 23(3) of the same 2000 ICPC Act.
In count seven, Emenalo was equally accused of receiving $120,000 from Otedola .
In an affidavit deposed to by one Chidi Amaeze, he averred that investigation into the criminal case had since been concluded.