Breaking: Lawan Bribery Case Adjourned to Feb. 9, Co-Accused, Emenalo, Turns Witness

The case of bribery and corruptly obtaining money, brought against Farouk Lawan as amended, 2013, by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Commission (ICPC) has been adjourned to Wednesday, Feb. 9.
Lawan is standing trial for allegely collecting the sum of $500,000 from Femi Otedola to exclude his (Otedola’s) companies from subsisidy probe.
Meanwhile, the second accused Boniface Emenalo, who was jointly charged along with Lawan until an amendment to the charges by the ICPC saw his name removed as a defendant. Lawan is now the sole accused person in the case, while Emenalo is now a prosecuting witness.
The case, which is before Justice Angela Otaluka of the High Court of the FCT in Lugbe, Abuja, was adjourned till next week for the prosecutor lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo, (SAN) to call his first prosecution witness.
Earlier, when the case was called for trial, the defence counsel, Sekop Zumka, from the chambers of Rickey Tarfa (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN) raised the issue of jurisdiction, arguring that jurisdiction was fundamental to any criminal proceedings especially when the defendant is ready and willing to defend the charges against him.
“When there is issue, challenging the jurisdiction, the issue must first be taken before the trial commences as in the present case”
But the prosecution lawyer countered that the status prohibits the court from taking application from the defendant at this stage, saying a section of the administration of justice act forebids this. He noted that the plea would have been by consent of the counsel, stating that long time ago the case was adjourned for hearing of the substantive suit, therefore urged the court to disallow the application.
The Judge thus ruled that the motion raised by the defence lawyer will only be taken when the substantive suit is considered, asking the prosecutor to continue with the case
However, the former member of the House of Representatives again opposed the admissibility of several documents sought to be tendered by the prosecution.
Lawan, who is facing an amended three-count charge alone, rejected the records of proceedings of the National Assembly on the fuel subsidy probe which Lawan was the committee ad-hoc chairman.
His counsel, Zumka, argued that the documents are not supported by the proof of evidence. He added that they were made after the commencement of the case to over reach the defence. And there was no sign to show that prescribed fees for the documents to be presented as exhibit was complied with.
But counsel to ICPC‎, Awomolo (SAN) asked the court to ignore the objection because the documents sought to be tendered are public documents commanded by the President after a court order, arguing government cannot pay fees to itself.
After about three hours break, the court ruled that no body is excepted from the fees, that as far they were relevant to the case at hand, the prosecutor should pay the required fees for the documents within stipulated time before they are admitted as exhibit.
The defence Counsel thereafter solicited for adjournment to enable the necessary payment made as far the witness was going to be examined based on the documents.
The case marked: Charge No: FCT/HC/CR/76/2013, Lawan was alleged to have in April, 2012 obtained the sum of $500, 000, in bribes from Otedola to remove his company Zenon Oil and Gas Ltd from companies indicted in the 2012 fuel subsidy fraud.
Lawan was alleged to have “asked for the sum of $3,000,000” and “corruptly obtained the sum of $500,000” bribe to exclude Zeno Petroleum and Gas as well as Synopsis Enterprises Limited from the list companies found to have defrauded the Federal Government billion of naira on the petroleum subsidy probe.
Lawan and Emenalo were initially arraigned on seve counts of corruptly accepting sums of money up to $620,000 in the course of performing the committee’s duty in 2012.
But the amended charges now comprising three counts instead of the previous seven.
Before the prosecution could proceed to trial, Lawan and Emenalo had appealed the decision of a High Court, to the effect that the prosecution had not established a prima facie case against them
On May 12, 2014 the Court of Appeal, Abuja dismissed their appeal on the ground that was without merit. But before proceedings could resume again at the trial court, Justice Oniyangi was elevated to the Court of Appeal, prompting the court’s Chief Judge to reassign the case to another judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Gudu division of the High Court of the FCT.
Lawan and Emenalo later compelled Justice Banjoko to withdraw from the case when they wrote a petition against her, alleging that she was likely to be bias in handling the case.
Lawan had in a petition addressed to the court’s Chief Judge, sought the re-assignment of the case to another judge on the ground that Justice Banjoko was close to Otedola, who was the accuser and a proposed prosecution witness in the case.
Shortly after the petition, Lawan’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) filed a motion and requested Justice Banjoko to disqualify herself from further handling the case on the same grounds of likelihood of bias.
Justice Banjoko subsequently withdrew from the case on November 2014 and returned the case file to court’s Chief Judge.

Author: News Editor

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