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$500,000 bribery: Farouk Lawan fails to open defence

Published by The Nation on Wed, 29 Jan 2020

Eric Ikhilae, AbujaA FORMER Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on alleged sharp practices in the fuel subsidy regime in 2012, Farouk Lawan, on Tuesday failed to call witnesses in his defence.The former lawmaker is undergoing trial at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Apo, Abuja.Lawan told the court that his main witness lost his brother to Lassa fever in Kano last Sunday.The ex-lawmaker is being tried for allegedly accepting $500,000 as bribe for the removal of billionaire businessman, Mr. Femi Otedolas companys name, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, from the list of firms indicted by the House committee for alleged fraud in the subsidy scheme.In a ruling on October 17, 2019, Justice Angela Otaluka, rejected Lawans no-case submission and held, among others, that contrary to the defendants argument, the prosecution made out a prima facie case against him to warrant his being called to enter a defence.Justice Otaluka ordered Lawan to open his defence on November 11, 2019, which he has been unable to do.On Lawans lawyer Benson Igbanoi said the defendant was ready to open his defence, but could not proceed because his only witness, who ought to testify, could not attend court because he was bereaved.Read Also:Alleged bribery: DSS presents video evidence on Farouk LawanIgbanoi said they received the news of the loss of the witness brother to Lassa fever on Sunday.He said: We are very much ready to open our defence today. However, late Sunday night, we received news that the sole witness of the defendant lost a brother to the dreaded Lassa fever that hit Kano city.My lord, in the circumstance, regrettably, we are unable to go on to open our defence today.We are, therefore, constrained to plead with my noble lord to grant us a short adjournment because our sole witness is so devastated.Igbanoi said the defence wrote a letter to the court, adding that a copy had been served on the prosecution.He prayed the court for a postponement of proceedings till February 11, 2020.Lead prosecution lawyer Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) acknowledged receiving the letter, dated January 27, 2020.Justice Otaluka granted the request for an adjournment and fixed February 11, 2020, as the return date.
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