The accused persons are hereby remanded in prison custody,” Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi’s voice re-echoed in their brains like some discordant tunes from a horror movie. It was like a jolt from the blues! They couldn’t believe it.
Suddenly, the haughty smirk that was hitherto on the face of the
erstwhile Chairman and Secretary of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc
Committee on fuel subsidy probe, Farouk Lawan and Boniface Emenalo
Clad in a well starched white flowing Agbada and matching cap, both
Farouk and his co-accused person, had exuded so much confidence while in
the dock. Never did they envisage themselves spending a whooping one
week at Kuje Prison.
Specifically, the duo will remain in Prison till February 8 when
their bail application will be determined by the trial court. It was
indeed a smooth transition from ‘parliamentary chambers’ to ‘prison
chambers’ for Farouk.
Their trial which came after so many months of suspense, commenced at
exactly 9:15 am on Friday morning with the court room witnessing a
massive turn-out of spectators who came to observe the much anticipated
Both men sauntered into the court room some 20 minutes earlier after
they managed to escape the probing lenses of numerous photojournalists.
Immediately the court clerk called up the case, Justice Oniyangi not
only ordered them to mount the dock, but personally read the 7-count
criminal charge to them.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences
Commission, ICPC, had in the charge, alleged that the embattled men
demanded and collected bribe from the Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and
Gas Ltd, Femi Otedola, as an inducement to remove the name of his
company from the report of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee
on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime.
They were said to have collected an aggregate sum of $3million, with a
view to ensure that Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd escaped prosecution
even though the Committee had ab-initio found it culpable in fuel
The anti-graft agency maintained that the offence they committed was
contrary to section 17 (1) (a), section 8(1) (a) (b) (ii), and section
23 (i) of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000 and
punishable under section 8 (1) 17 (1) and 23(3) of the same Act.
Besides, the prosecuting commission alleged that Emenalo, while being
a public officer, an Assistant Director and Clerk of the Committee on
Education of the House of Reps, sometime in April 2012, while acting as
the Secretary of the Ad-Hoc Committee, was offered gratification by
Otedola but failed to report the offer to any officer of the ICPC or any
police officer. Whereas both accused persons were charged together in
the first count of the charge, however, count 2, 3 and 4 were
specifically preferred against Farouk while count 5, 6 and 7 were
entered against Emenalo.
Meanwhile, shortly after they took turns and pleaded innocence to the
crime, counsel to the ICPC, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, implored the
court to remand them in prison custody pending their trial.
He told the court that the accused persons had only served him with
their consolidated bail application yesterday morning, saying he had
anticipated such move and prepared legal authorities he said would guide
the court into deciding that it was in the interest of justice to allow
the duo to be remanded in prison.
Relying on section 8, 10, 17 and 23 of the ICPC Act 2000 and the
decided case-law in Asari Dokubo Vs FRN, 2007, 12 NWLR, Awomolo, SAN,
said: “We are opposing the application for bail and urge your lordship
to refuse it. The accused persons are charged with an offence punishable
by 2 to 7 years imprisonment and therefore not ordinarily bailable.
“An application for bail is an application in equity which requires
my Lord to exercise your discretion judicially and judiciously. The
principles that guide the court in granting bail have been well
enunciated in the case of Bamaiyi Vs State, 2001, the nature and gravity
of the offence and the likelihood of the accused committing another
offence while on bail.
“The offence by which the accused persons are standing trial is the
case of corruption by a public officer at the highest level,
particularly in the legislative arm. The accused person, in the
affidavit did not give an undertaking that if they go back to the
National Assembly, they will not be members of another committee and
that they will not demand or obtain bribe in the discharge of their
“Your Lordship needs to be assured that what prompted them to demand
$3million will also prompt them to demand $10million.The accused persons
were part of the making of the ICPC Act, they knew the intention of the
lawmakers and deliberately violated the law, on that ground alone, I
urge my lord to deny them bail,” Awomolo added.
Earlier, the accused persons had through a team of two Senior
Advocates that represented them in court yesterday, Chief Ricky Tarfa
and Chief Mike Ozokhome, begged the court to either grant them bail on
self recognition on most liberal terms.
Moving their bail application dated February 1 and filed pursuant to
section 35, 36 (5) of the 1999 constitution as amended, and section 340
and 341(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, Tarfa, SAN, urged the court
to take cognizance of the fact that the 1st accused, Farouk, had in the
course of investigation into the matter, reported to the Police on 37
different occasions, noting that the duo never violated the
administrative bail that was given to them by the Police.
“The 1st accused have had cause to travel out more than four times
since the commencement of the investigation, the 2nd accused have had
cause to travel to the USA more than two times since then. My Lord, the
1st accused has been a full time member of the Reps since 1999; he is
also a member of the ECOWAS parliament and has been a member for the
last twelve years.
He is one of the founding members of the said ECOWAS parliament and
he is presently chairing the committee on Administration of Finance.”
Consequently, Tarfa, relied on decided case-law in Owudalu Vs State,
2008, AFWLR, and Ebute & Ors Vs State, 1994, 8-NWLR, and argued that
not only did the accused persons failed to abscond when they had the
opportunities, he said they had voluntarily submitted themselves to the
Police for investigation.
“The accused persons are willing and ready to face their trial. My
Lord should also take cognizance of their status and position in the
society and grant them bail in self recognition. The constitution says
they should be considered innocent until proven guilty,” he insisted.
In his short ruling, trial Justice Oniyangi, said he would need time
to consider the application, saying the accused persons should be
remanded in Prison till February 8 when the case was subsequently
Basically, two of the charges against them 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 Ad-hoc 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 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 as Secretary, corruptly asked for the sum of
$3,000,000 (three million US dollars) 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.”
Shortly after the Farouk Lawal led panel released its fact-finding
report that exposed astronomical fraud perpetuated by various companies
under the subsidy regime, Otedola, in a retaliatory move, released an
audio tape with a view to proving that the probe panel demanded
Otedola specifically accused Lawan of demanding for $3million to
exonerate his company, emphasizing that the lawmaker even went to the
extent of stuffing monies in his cap on one of the occasions he came to
receive bribe on behalf of the panel.
However, Lawan,through his lawyer,Chief Mike Ozokhome, SAN, refuted
the allegation that he stuffed money in his cap, stressing that contrary
to insinuation that he traveled to Lagos to collect bribe as alleged,
he only received money from Otedola on two separate occasions at his
room at Protea Hotel at Apo Abuja and at Otedola’s house at Aso Drive
Asokoro also in Abuja.
Describing the audio tape which was released to media houses as “a
devilish caricature”, Lawan had urged Nigerians to give him the benefit
of doubts, insisting that he would not rest until he proved that the
primary intention why he collected the money was to uncover the level of
corruption within the oil sector of the Nigerian economy.
More so, in a bid to further puncture the probe report, Otedola
alongside his company, Zenon Oil and Gas, filed a suit before the High
Court, where he is seeking the sum of N250billion against Farouk and the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, as exemplary
damages for alleged oppressive and arbitrary actions he said was meted