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Friday, 1 February 2013

Bribery Scam: Farouk Lawan, Emenalo Arraigned Remanded In Kuje Prisons.

AN Abuja High Court Friday remanded former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Ad-Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, Farouk Lawan, and Secretary of the committee, Boniface Emenalo, in Kuje Medium Security Prisons in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), following their arraignment for allegedly taking bribe from an oil mogul, Femi Otedola.

Lawan and Emenalo are to cool their heels in the prison while awaiting the fate of their oral application for bail fixed for determination on February 8, this year.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) preferred a seven-count criminal charge bordering on their alleged violation of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

While granting the anti-corruption commission leave to prefer the charges against the duo, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi ruled: "Upon careful consideration of the application and attached documents in support of same filed by the Complainant's Counsel, leave is hereby granted to the Complainant/Applicant to prefer criminal charge under Section 185 (b) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC)."

However, when the charge was read to the accused persons, they pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

Prosecution Counsel, Adegboyega Solomon Awomolo (SAN), had told the court that investigations into the matter had been concluded and the lists of witnesses filed and that he was ready to go on with the trial.

He said: "I apply that that the accused be placed in custody, pending the trial date," as, according to him, "we have been served with the motion for bail this morning. If it is convenient for you to take the application, we will take the application on points of law."

Defence Counsel, Ricky Tarfa (SAN) stated: "We apply that the accused persons be admitted to bail, pending the trial.

"We are also asking for bail on the most liberal terms. We adopt our written address, as the accused persons have been on administrative bail and they have never violated any of the terms of bail. The accused have been reporting to the police on 37 occasions; they have not traveled out more than four times since the commencement of investigation."

But Awomolo opposed the oral application, saying: "We are opposing the application for bail; they are charged with offences that are punishable with seven years in prison.

"There is the likelihood of their committing the same offence while on bail. They did not give an undertaking that when they are allowed to return to the National Assembly, if appointed into any committee, they will not obtain bribe.

"The right to liberty is not absolute, as guaranteed by the constitution under Section 35. The accuse persons were part and parcel of the enactment of the ICPC Act in 2000. They know the intention of the law and still got involved in it," Awomolo submitted.                                                                

 After hearing the arguments on both sides, Justice Oniyangi adjourned to February 8, this year for ruling on the bail application and ordered that the accused persons be remanded in the custody of Kuje Prisons.

The charge sheet, marked FCT/HC/CR/76/2013, gave names and addresses of witnesses, proof of evidence, as well as a list of exhibits.

The charge sheet was signed by Mrs. O. O. Fatunde, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of the Federation, on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN).

Prosecuting counsel, Awomolo had given indication of their arraignment in an interview with journalists in Abuja, even as Lagos-based lawyer, Festus Keyamo, had written a letter to the AGF, requesting the immediate prosecution of the duo.

Meanwhile, the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF) has accused the Presidency of connivance and bias in the handling of the bribery saga.

Reacting to the prosecution of Lawan (and Emenalo) by the Federal Government, Alhaji Shettima Yerima, president of AYCF, in a statement issued in Lagos, said by isolating Lawan for prosecution and tacitly dumping the House fuel subsidy probe resolution, the Presidency appeared desperate to tilt both the subsidy scam and bribery scandal in favour of Otedola

Yerima accused Otedola of also trying to influence the course of justice by maliciously sponsoring some notable activists to compel the government to charge Lawan to court over the saga involving both of them

He said under the law, the Presidency has no justification to leave out Otedola from the ongoing prosecution, as according to him, both givers and takers of bribes are conventionally culpable of bribery offence.

"What is the intention of the contrived bribery by Otedola in the first place? Our structures have been inundated with reports of the subtle conspiracy between the Presidency and Otedola to undermine the House committee probe on fuel subsidy scam, which found Otedola and his cohorts culpable."

The youth leader cautioned the federal government not to compromise equity and justice in the matter, saying what is good for the geese is also good for the gander.

While insisting, "Otedola must also be brought to justice for admitting masterminding bribery and for his alleged culpability in the fuel subsidy scam," the Arewa youths condemn what they perceived as a ploy to discredit and jettison the House report on account of the masterminded bribery plot.

The group urged the federal government to immediately commence action on the lawmakers' resolution so as not to provoke its mass intervention in concert with other civil society groups.

Source: Guardian

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