Lawan Farouk and Boniface Emenalo, both Chairman and Secretary of Nigeria’s House of Representatives Adhoc Committee for the probe of the oil subsidy regime were on Friday arraigned before an Abuja High Court on a seven count charge for allegedly soliciting for and obtaining the sum of $620,000 from businessman Femi Otedola, chairman of Zenon Oil.
Both lawmakers pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The court subsequently adjourned till 8 February, to rule on the bail application moved by their lawyers led by Mr. Rickey Tarfa and Chief Mike Ozhekome, both senior advocates of Nigeria. The court remanded the accused persons to Kuje Prison pending the court’s ruling on their bail application.
Upon entering their “not guilty” plea as the charge was read to them, their lawyers moved their application for bail asking the court to grant them bail on self recognition .
According to Mr. Rickey Tarfa, the bail application is brought pursuant to sections 35 and 36(5) of the constitution as well as 340 and 341(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code. He prayed the court to note that both Farouk and Emenalo had been granted administrative bails which terms they have consistently abided. He further intimated the court that the accused persons had both travelled outside the country severally since investigation commenced on the matter but still returned to the country without absconding from justice.
He also told the court that his clients had so far visited the Police Force Headquarters a record of 37 times during the course of investigation into the matter which had been concluded and urged the court to grant them bail on self recognition as members of the House of Representatives where Farouk, has been a four term member and chairman of the Committee on Education and Finance as well as member of ECOWAS Parliament for the past 12 years.
In opposing the application for bail, Chief Awomolo, also a senior advocate of Nigeria, argued that the offences for which the lawmakers are standing trial are not ordinarily bailable as the offences are punishable by a 2 to 7 year jail term. He contended that an application for bail is that of equity which requires the court to exercise discretion both judiciously and judicially.
In furtherance to his opposition, Chief Awomolo pointed out that the lawmakers committed the alleged crimes at the highest level in the legislative arm of government and that they failed to make any undertaking that they would not go back to the House, join another committee, demand and accept another bribe, maybe more than the $3 million they demanded from Mr. Femi Otedola.
He also pointed out that the lawmakers were part of the drafting of the ICPC Act 2000 and so were familiar with the law and its provisions and told the court that it should count against them that after making a law, they went and fouled the same law and urged the court to deny them bail and remand them in prison custody pending their trial.
In a bench ruling over the application, the court presided by Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, observed that the application for bail was filed and moved same day and noted that the court needs time to look at the application with a view to reaching a decision on the lawmakers application for bail. He thereafter ordered that Farouk and Emenalo should be remanded to Kuje prison until the ruling on their bail application which is fixed for 8th February.
Farouk and Emenalo are charged for their violation of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The charge sheet was signed by Mrs. O.O. Fatunde, the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN).
Counts 4 and 5 of the charge read:
“That you Hon. Farouk Lawan (M) while being a member of the House of Representatives and chairman of Ad-hoc committee on Monitoring of fuel subsidy regime sometimes in April 2012 or thereabout at Abuja within the Federal Capital Territory under the jurisdiction of this honourable court did while acting in the course of your official duty corruptly obtained the sum of $500,000 (five hundred thousand dollars) for yourself from Mr. Femi Otedola Chairman Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd as an inducement to remove the name of Zenon petroleum gas ltd from the report of the House of Representatives Adihoc committee on Monitoring of fuel subsidy regime and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 17 (1) of the Corrupt practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under section 17 (1) of the same Act.”
“That you Mr. Emenalo Boniface (M) while being a public officer, an Assistant Director and Secretary of. the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee on Monitoring ofFuel Subsidy Regime sometimes in April 2012 or thereabout at Abuja within the. Federal capital territory under the jurisdiction of this honourable court did while acting in the course of your official duty as Secretary…corruptly asked for the sum of $3,000,000 (three million US dollard) for yourself from Mr. Femi Otedola…and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 8 (1) (b) (ii) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under section 23 (3) of the same Act.”