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Alleged bribery: You’ve Case to Answer, Court Tells Lawan

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting at Apo, Abuja, has ordered former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Farouk Lawan, to enter his defence, having dismissed his no-case plea on Thursday, in his fuel subsidy bribery allegation trial.

The anti-graft agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), had dragged Lawan before the court for allegedly demanding the sum of $3 million from the Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited in 2012, while he (Lawan) was chairman of the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Petroleum Subsidy regime.

He was alleged to have collected $620,000 out of the amount with a view to removing Otedola’s companies’ names from the list of firms indicted by the ad hoc committee for allegedly abusing the fuel subsidy regime in 2012

Lawan, who served four terms in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, representing Bagwai/Shanono Federal Constituency of Kano State between 1999 and 2015, had through his counsel, Dr Mike Ozekhome (SAN), entered a no-case submission in the case marked FCT/HR/CR/76/13 and demanded that the court absolves him of the bribery allegation, saying that the prosecution had not established a prima facie case against him to warrant that he enter his defence in the case.

Ozekhome said that the prosecution had failed to solidly establish the defendant’s intent to commit the offence he was charged with, adding that the prosecution’s witnesses gave conflicting statements about the amount Lawan was alleged to have collected from Otedola.

According to the defendant’s counsel, the video evidence the prosecution presented before the court during trial was blurry and could not prove that the content of the envelope Otedola handed over to Lawan was money, adding that the failure of the operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) to arrest the former lawmaker immediately was enough evidence that they had no evidence against him.
However, counsel to the prosecution, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), on his part, urged the court to discard the submission and order the defendant to enter his defence, saying the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him.

According to him, the prosecution had been able to prove that Lawan took money to perform a public duty that he was supposed to do, adding that the defence’s failure to accept the video evidence as being valid did not negate the fact that the evidence existed and was true.

However, ruling on the no-case submission made by the former lawmaker, the presiding judge, Justice Angela Otaluka, held that at this level, the court was not to take a look at the totality of evidence before to know whether it was sufficient enough to convict the defendant.

According to her, when a no-case submission was made, the court would only consider if the prosecution had made a prima facie case against the defendant for the court to call upon such defendant to open their defence.

Justice Otaluka held that in the instant case, a careful perusal of the evidence before the court shows that the prosecution has made a case sufficient enough for the former lawmaker to give some explanation.

She, therefore, overruled the defendant in his no case-submission and ordered him to enter his defence. She thereafter adjourned the matter to November 11.

“Therefore, the no-case submission made by the defendant is hereby overruled,” the judge held.

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