Law News
ICPC re-arraigns Farouk Lawan for $620,000 scam Tuesday

The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission will on Tuesday re-arraign a former Chairman, House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Mr. Farouk Lawan, before a Federal High Court in Lugbe Division, Abuja, on a charge of $620,000 bribery.

Lawan is to be re-arraigned along with his then secretary in the committee, Boniface Emenalo, before Justice Angela Otaluka.

The re-arraignment was prompted by the withdrawal of the former trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, who was presiding over the case in Gudu division of the FCT judiciary, up till November 2014 when he returned the case file to the Chief Judge of the FCT for re-assignment to another judge over allegation of bias levelled against her by Lawan.

Lawan had, in a petition to the Chief Judge of the FCT seeking the re-assignment of the case to another judge, stated that Justice Banjoko was close to a business mogul, Mr. Femi Otedola, who was the accuser and a proposed prosecution witness in the case.

Apart from the petition, Lawan had also through his counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), filed a motion before Justice Banjoko, asking her to disqualify herself from further handling the case on the same grounds of likelihood of bias.

He had in the two documents alleged that the judge was likely to be biased against him because she and her family were close to Otedola, who was the Chairman, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited.

Justice Banjoko voluntarily withdrew from the case and ordered the case file to be returned to the FCT Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Bukar, despite the withdrawal of the motion filed by Lawan.

The accused persons were re-arraigned before Justice Banjoko on June 11, 2014, following the elevation of the initial trial judge, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, to the Court of Appeal.

Justice Banjoko had, while withdrawing from the case in her ruling on November 18, 2014, noted that though the application asking her to disqualify herself from further handling the case had been withdrawn and the Chief Judge had cleared her of the allegation in Lawan’s petition, it (the allegation) remained a “scandalous challenge” of her integrity.

“In my 17 years on the bench – six years as a magistrate and 11 years as a judge – I have never been confronted with a scandalous challenge of my integrity,” the judge said.

Lawan’s counsel, Ozekhome, who had filed the application dated October 29, 2014, asking the judge to quit the case, had announced the withdrawal of the motion during the proceedings of November 18, 2014.

Although Ozekhome had denied knowledge of the petition written by Lawan, he had therefore filed the application, asking the judge to disqualify herself from further handling the case, based on his client’s allegation contained in the petition.

Ozekhome later withdrew the application and pleaded with the judge to overlook the wrong impression, which the application and his client’s petition might have created.

The prosecuting counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), also apologised on behalf of the accused person and urged the judge to continue with the case.

But the judge refused to accede to the request of both parties, even as she denied the allegation that she and her family were close to Otedola.

She said that “justice is rooted in confidence,” adding that she could no longer continue to hear the case since the accused had first exhibited his lack of confidence in her.

“In the prevailing circumstances, I do find it difficult to continue this case. This case is returned to the honourable Chief Judge for re-assignment,” Justice Banjoko ruled.

Lawan and Emenalo are being prosecuted by the ICPC for allegedly collecting $620,000 in the course of performing the committee’s duty in 2012.

They were accused of collecting the bribe in April 2012 from Otedola, in order to remove his companies’ names from the list of firms indicted by the committee of abusing the fuel subsidy regime.

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