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Farouk Lawan bags five-year jail term over $3m bribe

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Farouk lawan

The Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence of Mr. Farouk Lawan, former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Probe, to five years in prison for bribery.

In a unanimous decision by a five-member panel on Friday, the Supreme Court denied the former lawmaker’s petition to dispute his conviction, ruling it to be without merit.

Lawan had argued, among other reasons, that the trial court denied him the right to make a plea of allocutus (a plea for leniency) before jailing him.

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

It should be noted that on June 22, 2021, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Apo sentenced the former legislator to seven years in jail.

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

The trial court determined that the defendant violated sections 17 (1) (a), 8(1) (a) (b) (ii), and 23 (i) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Act, 2000, and committed an offense punishable under sections 8 (1), 17 (1), and 23(3) of the Act.

The court said it was convinced that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, or ICPC, successfully established a criminal case against the defendant, even though it convicted him on all three counts that were preferred against him.

The defendant was sentenced to seven years in prison on counts one and two of the charge, but only five years on count three.

Justice Otaluka ruled that Lawan’s sentences would run concurrently.

Lawan, dissatisfied with the ruling, filed six grounds of appeal to contest his conviction.

He contended that the ICPC failed to construct a prima facie criminal case against him using credible evidence.

As a result, he asked the appeals court to discharge and acquit him of the bribery charge.

On February 24, 2022, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal confirmed the high court’s decision.

However, the appellate court, in a unanimous judgment by a three-member panel of justices, lowered Lawan’s prison sentence from seven to five years after releasing and acquitting him of two of the charges that led to his conviction.

The panel, led by Court of Appeal President Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, concluded that the prosecution’s evidence in the case was insufficient to prove that the former lawmaker asked and accepted to take $3 million from Otedola.

However, the appellate court upheld the prosecution’s claim that Lawan did actually accept $500, 000 from the oil mogul.

While dismissing the first two counts of the charge, the appellate court upheld the last count, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail if convicted.

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