Saturday, 1 March 2014
You Will Stand Trial, Abuja Court Tells Former House of Reps Committee Chair, Lawan Farouk
Not so fast!
That is what an Abuja court this morning told the disgraced former Chairman of the House of Representatives' Ad-Hoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime, Lawan Farouk, and its former Secretary, Boniface Emenalo.
The two men, accused of receiving the sum of $620,000 (about N97 million), from oil mogul and billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola, in April 2012 as inducement to remove his Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited from the list of companies to be indicted by the Ad-Hoc Committee, had mounted a legal campaign to get the court to dismiss the charges brought against them by the Independent Corrupt Practices And Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
In addition, Lawan and Emenalo, both defendants in suit FCT/HC/CR/76/2013, had in their application dated March 28, also sought an order of the court setting them free.
The presiding judge, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, had bad news for them. He ruled that they each have a case to answer over the subsidy bribe allegations. And yes, he assured them, the court does have jurisdiction and is competent to hear, try and determine the matter.
That was not all. On some technicalities, the court further ruled that the prosecution not having attached statements of witnesses to the charge was no basis to discharge the accused persons.
"The position of the law is clear, provision of Section 185(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code, CPC, relied upon by the accused persons does not suggest that written statement of witnesses must be attached to an application to prefer charges, I therefore hold that Section 185(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code requires an attachment of proof of evidence and not written statement of witnesses," he said.
The court further established that a prima facie case has been made against both men, requiring them to stand trial.
"Once there is evidence from the documents tendered before the court that the accused has questions to answer in respect of the charges, the accused should face his trial and prove his innocence," the judge maintained.
The matter was consequently adjourned for hearing to June 19.
Reacting to the court's decision, Rickey Tarfa, counsel to the accused persons, stated that he would study the certified copy of the ruling and discuss with his clients to know the next line of action to take. He indicated that they may appeal the decision if the occasion demands.
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 Ad-Hoc 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.”