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S’Court Affirms Lawan’s Five-Year Prison Sentence Over $3 Million Bribery Scandal.



S'Court Affirms Lawan's Five-Year Prison Sentence Over $3 Million Bribery Scandal.

ABUJA: On Friday, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision that found Mr. Farouk Lawan, the former chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy investigation, guilty of bribery and sentenced him to five years in prison.

In a unanimous ruling, the five-member panel of the supreme court rejected the former lawmaker’s appeal challenging his conviction, which he filed while incarcerated in 2021.

Lawan had among other things, contended that he was not allowed to make a plea of allocutus (plea for leniency) by the trial court before it jailed him.

However, in its lead judgement that was prepared by Justice Inyang Okoro but read on Friday by Justice Tijjani Abubakar, the Supreme Court said it was “crystal clear that failure of the trial court to call for allocution, did not vitiate the sentence passed on the Appellant.”

It will be recalled that a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Apo had on June 22, 2021, sentenced the former lawmaker to seven years in prison.

Trial Justice Angela Otaluka, found the four-term lawmaker for Bagwai/Shanono Federal Constituency of Kano State, guilty of demanding an aggregate sum of $ 3million from Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, Chief Femi Otedola, to give his company a clean bill of health in the fuel subsidy probe the House of Reps initiated on 2012.

The trial court held that the Defendant acted in breach of section 17 (1) (a), section 8(1) (a) (b) (ii), and section 23 (i) of the Corrupt practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000, and committed an offence punishable under section 8 (1) 17 (1) and 23(3) of the same Act.

The court said it was satisfied that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, successfully established a criminal case against the Defendant, even as it convicted him on all the three-count charges that was preferred against him.

Whereas the Defendant was handed 7 years jail term on counts 1 and 2 of the charge, the court sentenced him to 5 years on count 3.

Justice Otaluka held that the sentence would run concurrently.

Dissatisfied with the verdict, Lawan, lodged six grounds of appeal to challenge his conviction.

He maintained that the ICPC failed to by way of credible evidence, establish a prima facie criminal case against him.

Therefore, he prayed the appellate court to discharge and acquit him of the bribery allegation.

In its judgement on February 24, 2022, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal affirmed the high court’s verdict.

However, the appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel of Justices, reduced Lawan’s jail term from 7 to 5 years, after it discharged and acquitted him of two of the charges that led to his conviction.

The panel, which was led by the Court of Appeal President, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, held that the totality of evidence the Prosecution adduced in the matter, was not sufficient to prove that the former lawmaker demanded and agreed to accept $3m from Otedola.

The appellate court however upheld the case of the Prosecution that Lawan indeed received $500, 000 from the oil mogul.

The appellate court upheld the last count in the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty, but dismissed the first two counts in the charge.

Credit: Vanguard

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