…As Appeal Court dismisses Farouk Lawan’s no-case -submission, over alleged $3m bribe***
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) on Tuesday, re-arraigned a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), in a Federal High Court, Abuja.
Adoke was re-arraigned alongside a businessman, Aliyu Abubakar, on amended 14 -count charge bordering on money laundering.
The anti-graft agency is prosecuting Adoke in connection with the controversial OPL 245 transaction, also known as the Malabu Oil deal.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr Bala Sanga, said that the re-arraignment became necessary following an increase of charges from seven to 14.
Sanga also said that the amount involved in the new charge had increased from the previous N400 million.
In the previous charges, six of the seven counts related to Adoke while only one related to Abubakar.
But with the amended charges, each of the defendants is to answer to seven charges.
The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the case until Aug. 11 for commencement of trial.
One of the charges read: “That you Mohammed Adoke, sometime in Aug. 2013 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court, accepted a cash payment of a sum of United States Dollars, equivalent to N300,000,000.00 (Three hundred million Naira), from Aliyu Abubakar and you thereby committed an offence contrary to the combined effect of Section 16 (1) (d) and of Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.
“That you Mohammed Adoke, sometime in Sept. 2013 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this court, made a cash payment of the sum of $2,267,400.00 (Two million, two hundred and sixty-seven thousand, four hundred United States Dollars) to one Rislanudeen Muhammed and you thereby committed an offence contrary to the combined effect of Section 16 (1) (d) and of Section 1(a) of the Money Prohibition Act.”
Adoke and Abubakar were first arraigned before Justice Binta Nyako in February 2020 and then Justice Ekwo on June 17, 2020 on a seven-count criminal charge.
Although Justice Ekwo had, in June while admitting the defendants to bail, fixed Aug. 3 for the trial, however,, the trial could not begin on that day following the amendment of the former charge.
In another development, the Court of Appeal on Tuesday in Abuja court has dismissed the application filed by former lawmaker, Farouk Lawan seeking to terminate the $3 million bribery charges filed by the Federal Government.
Lawan was the Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy in 2012.
Lawan had approached the appellate court to set aside the decision of Justice Angela Otaluka of an Abuja High Court and free him from the charges.
Delivering judgment in the appeal filed against the ruling of Otaluka which held that Lawan had a case to answer,Justice Olabisi Ige who headed the panel held that the decision of the lower court was well-founded.
The appellate court in a unanimous decision held that a prima facie case was well established against Lawan that warranted him to enter his defence in the three counts charge filed against him in 2013.
Justice Ige held that contrary to the argument of Lawan, the prosecution evidence at the lower court was not in anyway discredited, hence the rejection of his no-case submission.
The appellate court also held that the language of the trial judge, Justice Otaluka which Lawan complained about, did not place the defendant in any disadvantaged position or was in anyway inimical to his trial.
The judge, who quoted the records of proceedings of the FCTHigh Court, especially the testimonies of the five witnesses called by the federal government.
The panel upheld the findings of Justice Otaluka that there were sufficient evidence linking Lawan to the offences.
“I am of the firm view and I have no doubt that the oral and documentary evidence presented by the prosecution sufficiently linked the appellant to the charges against him and to warrant his being called upon to make his defense.
“Prosecution evidence was not slanted in favour of the prosecution. In all, all the four issues raised in this appeal are hereby resolved against the appellant. His appeal, being un-meritorios is hereby dismissed”, he held .
Justice Otaluka had sometimes last year dismissed the no-case-submission filed by Lawan who was then Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Oil and Gas in his alleged three million dollars bribery trial.
The prosecution closed its case after calling five witnesses, Lawan, through his counsel, Mike Ozekhome SAN, had filed a no-case submission on the grounds that the evidence and testimonies did not link Lawan to the crime.
Ozekhome said the prosecution’s witnesses gave conflicting statements about the amount Lawan was alleged to have collected from the fifth prosecution witness, Mr Femi Otedola, who offered the alleged bribe to Lawan.
Ozekhome in addition argued that the video evidence showing how Lawan collected bribe from Otedola was blurry and does not necessarily prove that the content of the envelope Otedola gave to Lawan was money but could have been anything else.
He further submitted that if the Department of State Services (DSS) had any evidence they would have arrested Lawan immediately at the scene of the bribery which they claimed they set up.
Responding, prosecution lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission and ordered the defendant to enter his defense.
He added that, because the prosecution had established sufficient evidence through video and oral testimonies which linked Lawan to the alleged offences.
Justice Otaluka agreed with the submission of Awomolo and ordered Lawan to open his defense.