From GODWIN TSA, Abuja
After spending seven days in Kuje prison, an Abuja High Court yesterday admitted the embattled Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Ad-hoc committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime, Hon. Farouk Lawan and the secretary of the committee, Mr. Emenalo Boniface to bail in the sum of N10 million each and two sureties in the like sum.
In addition, they are to deposit their international passports with the registrar of the court. Besides the liberal conditions, the court has barred them from travelling out of its jurisdiction without approval. The court had on February 1, ordered their detention in prison custody till yesterday when it ruled on their bail applications. The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) arraigned them, over alleged violation of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000. ICPC’s action was consequent upon the leave granted the prosecutor to prefer a 7-count criminal charge against them.
Shortly after the accused persons pleaded “not guilty” to the charges, which border on their alleged demand for bribe from business mogul, Mr. Femi Otedola, prosecuting counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), prayed the court to remand them in prison custody, pending the commencement of trial, which he announced prosecution was ready for. However, defence counsel, Ricky Tarfa (SAN) moved an application for bail pursuant to Sections 95 and 96 (5) of the constitution of Nigeria (as amended), as well as sections 340 and 341 of the Criminal Procedure Code, CPC.
The motion for bail, which was supported by a 26-paragraph affidavit, prayed the court to grant the accused persons bail on “self-recognition”, drawing the court’s attention to the fact that Lawan has been a member of the lower chamber of the National Assembly since 1999. According to Tarfa, the fact that the accused persons always reported to the police in the course of investigation into the criminal offence, coupled with their numerous trips abroad and back, were eloquent testimonies that they will not jump bail.
He concluded by reminding the court that granting of bail was the sole discretion of the judge and that it was the responsibility of the prosecution to show why bail should not be granted. It will be recalled that Otedola had sometime last year alleged that upon pressure from Lawan to exonerate Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd from culpability in the mismanagement of fuel subsidy funds, he doled out about $620,000 to the lawmaker. He claimed that the “bribe-for-clearance” money was given to stave off pressure.