The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) re-arraigned former Chairman, House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Mr. Farouk Lawan, before a Federal High Court in Lugbe Division, Abuja, on a charge of $620,000 bribery.
Lawan chaired a House committee that investigated a multi-billion fraud associated with government fuel subsidy. He allegedly collected a bribe of $620,000 from Femi Otedola, Chairman of Forte Oil to exclude his firm from the list of indicted companies.
The re-arraignment was due to the withdrawal of the former trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, who was in-charge of the case in Gudu division of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) judiciary, till November 2014 when she returned the case file to the Chief Judge of the FCT for re-assignment to another judge over allegation of bias leveled against her by Farouk Lawan.
Lawan’s counsel filed the application in October 29, 2014, asking the judge to quit the case. Before withdrawing from the case, Justice Banjoko in her ruling on November 18, 2014, noted that though the application asking her to disqualify herself from further handling the case had been withdrawn and the Chief Judge had cleared her of the allegation in Lawan’s petition, it (the allegation) remained a “scandalous challenge” of her integrity.
In the case that resumed on Tuesday at an Abuja High Court, Mr. Lawan’s co-accused Boniface Emenalo, turned against the former lawmaker and became the key prosecution witness.
Mr. Emenalo, who was arraigned in 2012 alongside Mr. Lawan became the main prosecution witness for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Matters Commission (ICPC).
Lawan and Emenalo were alleged to have conspired, in April 2012, to demand $3 million gratification from Otedola to remove his firm from the list of oil companies indicted for the scam. The prosecution team, led by Adegboyega Awomolo had argued before the court, that the offence contravened the provisions of Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, and punishable under Section 8 (1) of the same act.
In the charge sheet made available to newsmen on Tuesday, Boniface Emenalo,who was previously an accused person in the case was not included as a defendant but he rather appeared before Justice Angela Otaluka of the High Court as a witness of the prosecution to testify against Lawan. According to source, the commission had a deal with Mr. Emenalo to serve as prosecution witness for his charges to be dropped.
Emenalo was separately accused in Count 7 of receiving $120,000 as gratification from Otedola for the same purpose, an offence which violates Section 10 (a)(ii) of ICPC Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 10 of the same Act. Having pleaded not guilty to the charges, Justice Banjoko ordered the accused to continue with the bail conditions granted by Oniyangi.