Law and Crime

Oil Subsidy Bribe Saga : Supreme Court Reaffirms Lawal’s Five Year Jail Term

The Supreme Court has affirmed the five-year jail term handed to a former member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan by the Court of Appeal.

Lawan was convicted and sentenced to prison in 2021 for accepting $500,000 bribe from businessman, Femi Otedola, Chairman, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd.

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In a unanimous judgment on Friday, a five-member panel affirmed the 2022 judgment of the Court of Appeal which upheld Lawan’s sentencing to five years in respect of only count three on the three-count charge on which he was tried at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

In the lead judgment prepared by Justice John Okoro but read on Friday by Justice Tijjani Abubakar, the apex count found that Lawan’s appeal was without merit and proceeded to dismiss it.

A federal capital territory (FCT) high court sitting in Apo, Abuja, had sentenced Farouk Lawan, former chairman of the federal house of representatives ad-hoc committee on fuel subsidy, to seven years imprisonment over the $3 million bribery charges preferred against him by the federal government.

Lawan was the chairman of the house of representatives ad hoc committee probing the multi-billion naira fuel subsidy fraud in 2012.

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He was accused of demanding $3 million from Femi Otedola to remove Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited (Otedola’s company) from the list of oil companies allegedly involved in the fuel subsidy fraud in 2012.

Lawan, who was arraigned on seven counts of bribery by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), was alleged to have collected $500,000 bribe from Otedola.

The charge was later amended to three counts.

Otedola, while giving evidence as the fifth prosecution witness, said the defendant had demanded $3 million from him with a threat to indict his company.

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The businessman said he proceeded to report the issue to the DSS and was given $500,000 in marked notes. Also, the DSS had planted a camera in Otedola’s house.

On count one, Lawan had argued that the prosecution had failed to produce the call log between himself and Otedola in which he demanded the bribe. Lawan had also submitted that he collected the money from Otedola to prove that the oil mogul had offered to bribe the committee so as to have Zenon removed from the list of indicted companies.

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But Angela Otaluka, the presiding judge, while delivering judgment in the case on Tuesday, held that “it is the duty of the defendant to produce materials upon which he places his defence”.

She went further to state that the defendant failed to call one honourable Ribadu or any member of the house committee to buttress his claim of collecting the money to implicate Otedola. The court held that they were “vital witness” needed to prove his case.

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