Two members of the House of Representatives panel that probed the scam in the fuel subsidy regime in 2012, Messrs Farouk Lawan and Boniface Emenalo, were on Wednesday re-arraigned for collecting $620,000 bribe in the course of performing their official duty.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, re-arraigned the two on seven counts charge before Justice A.A.I Banjoko of a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Gudu, Abuja.
The re-arraignment followed the elevation of the former trial judge, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, formerly of the FCT High Court, to the Court of Appeal, a development that required the commencement of the trial afresh before another judge.
The two legislators again pleaded not guilty to all the counts on Wednesday as they earlier did on February 1, 2013, when they were first arraigned.
They were accused of collecting the total sum of $620,000 bribe in April 2012 from the Chairman, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, Mr. Femi Otedola, in order to remove his company’s name from the list of firms indicted by the committee to have abused the subsidy regime.
Lawan and Emenalo were the then Chairman and Secretary respectively of House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime, which probed the alleged subsidy scam.
After the accused persons took their plea, the defence counsel, Mr. O. Jolaawo, urged the court to allow the bail earlier granted his clients on February 8, 2013, by the former trial judge, to continue in the same conditions and terms, which they had both met.
The prosecuting lawyer, Mr. Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), did not oppose the application.
The judge granted the request but not until all the four sureties, two each for the accused persons, were present in court and agreed to continue to serve as the sureties for the two accused.
The former trial judge had then granted bail to the accused in the sum of N10m with two sureties each. They were also ordered to release their passport as part of the bail conditions.
Justice Banjoko fixed July 7 and 8 for definite hearing.
It will be recalled that the accused had challenged the competence of the charges preferred against them.
The earlier trial judge had refused to quash the charges as they requested, consequent upon which the accused persons appealed against the decision of the lower court.
But the Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the lower court and ordered the accused to face trial.
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 ad hoc committee, an offence punishable under section 8(1) of the same Act.