ABUJA – The Supreme Court, on Friday, upheld the judgement that convicted and sentenced the former Chairman of the then House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy probe, Mr. Farouk Lawan, to five years in prison for bribery.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, dismissed as lacking in merit, an appeal the former lawmaker, who has been in prison custody since 2021, filed to challenge his conviction.
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.
While it dismissed the first two counts in the charge, the appellate court sustained the last count in the charge which attracts a maximum of five years imprisonment upon conviction.