Northern Nigerian Breaking News

Supreme Court fixes Jan for judgment on jailed Farouk Lawan’s appeal, as ex-lawmaker battles cancer

The Supreme Court has fixed judgment for January 26, 2024, in the appeal by jailed former member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan.

A five-member panel led by Justice John Okoro chose the date on Thursday after lawyers to parties made their final submissions and adopted their written briefs.

Lawan’s appeal, marked: SC/CR/616/2022 is seeking to set aside the February 24, 2022 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which sentenced him to five years jail term and discharged him on two out of the three counts on the corruption charge brought against him by the Federal Government.

Although it was his motion for bail, pending the determination of his appeal, that was listed for hearing, the court elected to take the main appeal rather than dissipating energy on the interlocutory application when the appeal was, on its own, ripe for hearing.

Lawan’s lawyer, Joseph Daudu (SAN) had, while urging the court to first take the bail application, said his client’s health was threatened.

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Daudu said: “He (Lawan) has stage three prostrate cancer,” noting that if it gets to stage four, there is no assurance that he will remain alive.

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But, on realising that the court was unwilling to walk back on its position, Daudu applied to withdraw the application for bail, following which the main appeal was taken.

Daudu urged the court to allow his client’s appeal and set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

Daudu also noted that the Court of Appeal discharged on counts one and two, which attracted maximum of seven years.

The legal luminary argued that if the Court of Appeal could discharge his client on the two counts, which he claimed, have the same ingredients as the third count, the Supreme Court should equally let off the hook in relation to the third count.

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Lawyer to the Fed Govt, Bagudu Sanni urged the court to affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal and dismiss the appeal.

The Court of Appeal had, in its judgment, reduced Lawan’s initial maximum jail term from seven to five years.

Lawan was convicted by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on June 22, 2021 on a three-count charge of soliciting bribe, agreeing to accept bribe and actually accepting $500,000 bribe from businessman, Femi Otedola.

The High Court of the FCT, in a June 22, 2021 judgment by Justice Angela Otaluka, sentenced Lawan to seven years on count one; seven years on count two, and five years on count three.

But, in is unanimous judgment, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, led by the court’s President, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, quashed Lawan’s conviction on counts one and two.

The court held that the prosecution failed to prove both counts relating to demanding for and agreeing to accept $300million bribe from Otedola.

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Justice Dongban-Mensem noted, in the lead judgment, that the investigators did a shoddy job by not analysing call logs from the telecommunication service provider to ascertain whether or not their was phone conversations between Lawan and Otedola as claimed by the complainant.

She further noted that while Lawan was accused of demanding and agreeing to $300m bribe from Otedola during phone conversations, it was incumbent on the investigators to obtain the call logs and analyse them.

“There is no convincing evidence to establish counts one and two. There is a big lacuna in the respondent ‘s (prosecution’) case against the appellant (Lawan) as it relate to offences charged in counts 1 and 2 . The offences were not proved beyond reasonable doubt,” she said.

Justice Dongban-Memsen found that the prosecution (respondent) was only able to prove the third count relating to his accepting bribe of $500,000.

She noted that even the appellant admitted collecting the $500,000 from Otedola.

The judge then acquitted Lawan on counts one and two (on which he was sentenced to seven years per count), but convicted him on count three on which he was sentenced to five years.

The judgment was on the appeal by Lawan, marked: CA/ABJ/CR/495/2021.

Justices Peter Ige (now retired) and Mohammed Mustapha, who were other members of the panel, agreed with the lead judgment.

The Nation

 

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