The charge stems from allegations by a businessman, Chief Femi Otedola, that Lawan demanded and received $620,000 as a bribe from him while he (Lawan) was the chairman of the House AdHoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime.
The arraignment of Lawan alongside the secretary of the adhoc committee, Mr. Boniface Emenalo, seems an indication of the Federal Government sudden readiness to up the tempo of its anti-corruption campaign.
On Wednesday, a former Assistant Director of the Police Pension Office, John Yusuf, was rearraigned and remanded in prison custody barely 24 hours after an Abuja High Court handed him a light sentence after admitting to conniving with others to defraud the office and pensioners of N27.2bn.
Many civil society groups and Nigerians, including students, had denounced the Abuja High Court judgment, saying it was an indication of Federal Government’s unwillingness to take on the fight against corruption headlong.
Lawan and Emenalo, will however, be arraigned before Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of a Federal Capital Territory High Court today. Oniyangi had on Thursday granted the ICPC leave to file the seven counts against them.
Oniyangi said, “Upon careful consideration of the application and attached documents in support of same filed by the complainant’s counsel, leave is hereby granted to the complainant/applicant to prefer criminal charges under section 185 (b) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
“The case is fixed for February 1, 2013 for arraignment.”
Lawan and Emanalo are to be tried for “Violation of the Corrupt Practices and Other-Related Offences Act, 2000.”
The charge sheet with reference number FCT/HC/CR/76/2013 was signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Mrs. O.O. Fatunde, on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN).
The Federal Republic of Nigeria is the complainant, while Lawan and Emenalo are the defendants.
Count one of the charge reads, “That you, Farouk Lawan (M) and Mr. Emenalo Boniface (M) sometime in April 2012 or thereabout in Abuja within the Federal Capital Territory under the jurisdiction of this honourable court did while acting in the course of your official duties as Chairman and Secretary (respectively) of House of Representatives AdHoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime, conspired between yourselves and with each other to corruptly obtain the sum of $3,000,000 for yourselves from Mr. Femi Otedola, Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, as inducement to remove the name of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd from the House of Representatives AdHoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime’s Report and did cause the House to remove the name of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd from the said list and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 26(1)(c) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other-Related Offences Act, 2000, and punishable under section 8(1) of the same Act.”
In count two, Lawan was accused of corruptly asking for $3,000,000 from Otedola with the intention of favouring him (Otedola) in the report of the adhoc committee, an offence punishable under section 8(1) of the same Act.
While in count three, Lawan was said to have corruptly agreed to accept the $3,000,000, count four indicated that he obtained $500,000 from Otedola Otedola.
In the same vein, count five accused Emenalo of asking for$3,000,000 for himself from Otedola as a bribe, an offence punishable under section 8(1) of the ICPC 2000 Act.
The prosecution alleged in count six that Emenalo was offered bribe by Otedola but he failed to report the offer to any officer of the ICPC, an offence contrary to section 23(1) of the ICPC Act, 2000, and punishable under section 23(3) of the same 2000 ICPC Act.
In count seven, Emenalo was equally accused of receiving $120,000 from Otedola.
In an affidavit deposed to by one Chidi Amaeze, the ICPC disclosed that investigation into the criminal case had since been concluded.
Lawan had repeatedly denied Otedola’s accusations, saying he collected the $620,000 as evidence to expose the businessman’s attempts to bribe him.
The prosecution is coming several months after the police had concluded investigations into the allegation. The report of the police investigation, as well as the case file, was reportedly submitted to the AGF in August 2012.
The AGF’s silence on the matter had given rise to insinuations that the Federal Government had swept the matter under the carpet.
However, a lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, had last week, sent draft charges against Lawan to the AGF, and in a letter accompanying the charge, he gave the AGF a one-week ultimatum to indicate his readiness to prosecute Lawan.
The ultimatum expired on Tuesday.
Keyamo had explained that he decided to prepare, and send the draft charge to the AGF following indications that he (AGF) was unwilling to prosecute the case for undisclosed reasons.
But reacting to Keyamo’s ultimatum, government prosecutor, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), had informed journalists that Lawan would be arraigned during the week.