Law News
Judge Withdraws from Lawan’s $620,000 Bribery Trial
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 Former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, Mr. Farouk Lawal

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

Justice Adebukola Banjoko of an Abuja High Court sitting in Guru District on Tuesday recused herself from the trial of a former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, Mr. Farouk Lawal and the committee’s secretary Bono face Emenalo.

Lawan and Emenalo are being tried for the allegation that they collected $620,000 bribe from Femi Otedola so as to remove the names of his companies from those who allegedly defrauded the country under the fuel subsidy regime.

Justice Banjoko after withdrawing from the case directed that the file   be returned to the FCT Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Bukar for re-assignment.

She is the second judge to handle the case.

Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi who initially heard the case was promoted to the Court of Appeal.

In a short ruling, the judge said that although the application asking her to disqualify herself had been withdrawn and the chief judge had cleared her of the allegation in Lawan’s petition against her, the allegation was a “scandalous challenge” of her integrity.

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

Lawan’s counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) who had filed the application dated October 29, asking the judge to quit the case, applied to withdraw the application.

Apart from the application, Lawan had also personally petitioned the FCT Chief Judge, accusing Justice Banjoko of likely bias based on an alleged close relationship between her and the Chairman, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, Mr. Femi Otedola.

Ozekhome however  denied knowledge of the petition written by Lawan.

However, Ozekhome made a U-turn on the application pn Tuesday as he withdrew it and pleaded with the judge to overlook the wrong impression, which the application and his client’s petition must 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, “Justice is rooted in confidence.”

According to her, since the accused person had first exhibited  lack of confidence in her, she could no longer continue to hear the case.

“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

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