$3m bribe: Why Appeal Court dismissed Lawan’s no-case submission

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The Court of Appeal on Tuesday in Abuja dismissed the application filed by a former lawmaker, Farouk Lawan seeking to terminate the $3 million bribery charges filed by the Federal Government.

He was the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy in 2012.

The ex-lawmaker had approached the appellate court to set aside the decision of Justice Angela Otaluka of an Abuja High Court and free him from the charges.

Delivering judgment in the appeal filed against the ruling of Otaluka which held that Lawan had a case to answer, Justice Olabisi Ige who headed the panel held that the decision of the lower court was well-founded.

The appellate court in a unanimous decision held that a prima facie case was well established against Lawan that warranted him to enter his defence in the three-count charge filed against him in 2013.

Justice Ige held that contrary to the argument of Lawan, the prosecution’s evidence at the lower court was not in any way discredited, hence the rejection of his no-case submission.

The appellate court also held that the language of the trial judge, Justice Otaluka which Lawan complained about, did not place the defendant in any disadvantaged position or was in any way inimical to his trial.

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The judge quoted the records of proceedings of the FCT High Court, especially the testimonies of the five witnesses called by the federal government.

The panel upheld the findings of Justice Otaluka that there was sufficient evidence linking Lawan to the offences.

“I am of the firm view and I have no doubt that the oral and documentary evidence presented by the prosecution sufficiently linked the appellant to the charges against him and to warrant his being called upon to make his defense.

“Prosecution evidence was not slanted in favour of the prosecution. In all, all the four issues raised in this appeal are hereby resolved against the appellant. His appeal, being un-meritorious is hereby dismissed,” he held.

Justice Otaluka had sometimes last year dismissed the no-case-submission filed by Lawan who was then Chairman of the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Oil and Gas in his alleged $3 million bribery trial.

The prosecution closed its case after calling five witnesses; Lawan, through his counsel, Mike Ozekhome SAN, had filed a no-case submission on the grounds that the evidence and testimonies did not link Lawan to the crime.

Ozekhome said the prosecution’s witnesses gave conflicting statements about the amount Lawan was alleged to have collected from the fifth prosecution witness, Mr. Femi Otedola, who offered the alleged bribe to Lawan.

Ozekhome in addition argued that the video evidence showing how Lawan collected bribe from Otedola was blurry and does not necessarily prove that the content of the envelope Otedola gave to Lawan was money but could have been anything else.

He further submitted that if the Department of State Services (DSS) had any evidence they would have arrested Lawan immediately at the scene of the bribery which they claimed they set up.

Responding, prosecution lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission and order the defendant to enter his defence.

He added that the prosecution had established sufficient evidence through video and oral testimonies which linked Lawan to the alleged offences.

NAN reports that Justice Otaluka agreed with the submission of Awomolo and ordered Lawan to open his defence.

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