BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—After months of intense dilly-dalling, the Federal Government has finally succumbed to pressure and entered a seven-count criminal charge against erstwhile Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy probe, Farouk Lawan.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, will today, dock the embattled lawmaker alongside the former Secretary of the fuel subsidy probe committee, Mr Boniface Emenalo.
The duo will appear before an Abuja High Court to enter their plea to the charge which accused them of demanding and collecting 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.
The accused lawmakers were said to have 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.
Farouk, Emenalo okayed for trial
Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, who okayed the accused persons for trial, yesterday, maintained that “upon a careful consideration of the application and attached documents in support of same filed by the complainant’s counsel…leave is hereby granted to the complainant/applicant to prefer criminal charges under section 185 (b) of the Criminal Procedure Code, CPC.”
Further attached to the charge sheet marked FCT/HC/CR/76/2013, which was signed on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, by one Mrs. O.O. Fatunde, a Director of Public Prosecutions, were names and addresses of witnesses, proof of evidence, as well as a list of exhibits against the lawmakers.
Already the Federal Government has contracted a private prosecutor, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, to conduct the trial.
Specifically, some of the charges against them read: “That you 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 and 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.”
It will be recalled that a Lagos based lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo had earlier given the AGF a six-day ultimatum to charge the accused persons to court or okay a four-count criminal charge he personally drafted against them.
Meantime, in an affidavit deposed to by one Chidi Amaeze, the ICPC told the trial high court that investigation into the criminal case against Farouk and Emenalo had since been concluded.
Offence punishable under ICPC Acts —Keyamo
Moreso, Keyamo had in his own charge, maintained that the proof of evidence adduced against the two lawmakers over the alleged role they played in the cash-for-clearance scandal, indicted them to acts of criminal conspiracy, gratification and criminal intimidation contrary to sections 96 and 396 of the Penal Code Act, Laws of FCT, as well as, Section 12(1) (a-b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, Cap C31, LFN 2004.
According to him, their offence is also punishable under section 97 and 387 of the two aforementioned Acts, respectively.
It will be recalled that after the Farouk Lawan-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 cash-for-clearance.
Otedola specifically accused Lawan of demanding $3 million 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 Ozekhome, SAN, refuted the allegation that he stuffed money in his cap, stressing that contrary to insinuation that he travelled 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.
Audio tape nails suspects
Describing the audio tape which was released to media houses as “a devilish caricature”, Lawan had urged Nigerians to give him the benefit of doubt, 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 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 N250 billion against Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, as exemplary damages for alleged oppressive and arbitrary actions he said were meted against him.