The Federal Government on Friday arraigned Farouk Lawan, former Chairman, House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime, for allegedly receiving $3.5 million (about N625 million) bribe. The two have been remanded in prison custody.
The prosecution alleged that Emenalo Boniface, an assistant director, who acted as the Secretary of the Committee, received $120,000 (about N18 million) from the deal.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Farouk and Boniface are standing trial on a seven-count charge.
Among other things, Farouk is charged with corruptly obtaining the sum of $500,000 for himself from Mr Femi Otedola, the Chairman, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, as an inducement to remove the company’s name from the committee’s report.
Similarly, Emenalo Boniface, an assistant director and Secretary of the committee, is alleged to have “corruptly asked for $3,000,000 from Mr Femi Otedola’’.
The prosecution said Farouk 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.
It also said that Boniface 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, but the two pleaded not guilty.
Mr Rickey Tarfa, the counsel to the accused, filed a bail application, urging the court to grant his clients bail on self-recognition.
Tarfa said that the accused were eminent officials in the National Assembly, adding that they had met all the 37 invitations extended to them by the police during the investigation of the matter.
He said that the first accused (Lawan) had travelled abroad four times since the beginning of investigation into the matter.
According to him, Lawan, who is the current Chairman of the Administration and Finance of the ECOWAS Parliament, is more than prepared to stand the trial.
Tarfa also said that Boniface, the second accused, had travelled to the United States twice since the beginning of the investigation.
The counsel, who brought the application pursuant to Section 35(5) of the 1999 Constitution, said the liberty of the accused must be protected pending the determination of the suit.
Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), the prosecution counsel, however, opposed the application, saying that the accused must be stopped from riding on the back of Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution.
He explained that the right of liberty of the citizens guaranteed by that provision was not absolute.
“My Lord, the accused persons should not be allowed to escape lawful detention when they clearly demanded and received bribe.
“The accused persons were part of the making of the ICPC Act of 2004 that has been used to prosecute them; they are aware of the penalty that comes with its violation.
“In fact, the accused persons should have convinced me with their application if they had signed an undertaking not to further ask or collect bribes in the performance of their official duties.
“The penalty for the offence, which runs from two to seven years, ordinarily should not attract bail; I therefore urged the court to refuse the prayer and remand the accused persons, pending the determination of the suit.
Justice Musdashiru Oniyangi adjourned ruling in the application to Feb. 8 and ordered that the accused persons be remanded in prison.