January 27, 2023

Conviction: S’Court rejects Senator Nwaoboshi’s bail request

….says he is lawless

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

The Supreme Court, on Friday, dismissed an application for post-conviction bail brought before it by the Senator representing Delta North, Mr. Peter Nwaoboshi.

Nwaoboshi had gone before the apex court to set aside the judgement that convicted and sentenced him to seven years in prison for money laundering.

The Court of Appeal in Lagos had in a judgement it delivered on July 1, 2022, sentenced him to prison after it convicted him on a two-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC preferred against him.

The appellate court equally ordered that his two companies- Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd and Suiming Electrical Ltd- be wound up, in line with the provision of Section 22 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2021.

Dissatisfied with the verdict, the lawmaker, aside from praying the apex court to set it aside, equally filed a motion to be granted bail, pending the determination of his appeal.

However, in a unanimous decision on Friday, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court, while dismissing the application, noted that Nwaoboshi, rather than serving his jail term, went underground immediately he was convicted.

It described the lawmaker’s conduct as a slap on democracy and rule of law.

In the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court wondered why Nwaoboshi, who refused to submit himself to the law, filed the application to seek the indulgence of the law.

Justice Agim held that being serving Senator and a Senatorial candidate of the APC for the impending election, the Appellant, ought to have submitted himself to the authority of the law.

The court stressed that undisputed facts before it proved that the Appellant, though hiding within the country, has continued to device means to frustrate the subsisting custodial sentence imposed on him by the Court of Appeal.

“Worst still, he has remained at large, except for his occasional production of medical reports here and there. It is difficult to imagine where he is.

“While he remains at large, it is very difficult for this court to exercise any discretion in his favour”, Justice Agim added.

In his contribution, Justice Tijani Abubakar berated the Appellant for filing the bail application while on the run.

He said: “This is a sad development. It is a slap on democracy, and a slap on the rule of law.

“We must make it very, very clear to all Nigerians that nobody is above the law. The government and the governed are subject to the rule of law. And, we must ensure that there is respect for the rule of law.

“Lawmakers must lead by example. They make the laws, they must respect the laws. And, if they do not respect the laws, it means that they have failed in discharging their mandate.

“On our part, we continue to ensure that the rule of law prevails. My message is that nobody is above the law. The government and the governed are subject to the rule of law.

“The application is frivolous. It is vexatious. It is irritating,” Justice Abubakar said.

Other members of the panel – Justices Amina Augie, Uwani Abba-Aji and Adamu Jauro – agreed with the lead judgment and dismissed the bail application.

It will be recalled that the appellate court judgement that convicted Nwaoboshi was a fallout of an appeal the EFCC filed to challenge the verdict of Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Federal High Court in Lagos, which had on June 18, 2021, discharged and acquitted the lawmaker and his companies.

EFCC had among other things, alleged that the three defendants illegally acquired a property named Guinea House, Marine Road, in Apapa, Lagos, for N805 million.

It alleged that part of the money paid to the vendor, precisely a sum of N322m transferred by Suiming Electrical Ltd on behalf of Nwaoboshi and Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd , was part of proceeds of fraud.

Whereas the trial court held that the prosecution failed to call vital witnesses and tender concrete evidence to prove the elements of the offences for which it charged the defendants, the appellate court disagreed, saying it was satisfied that EFCC proved all the essential ingredients of the charge.