Read Time:3 Minute, 3 Second
The Court of Appeal in Abuja Monday dismissed an appeal filed by the former Chairman, House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, Farouk Lawan and his ex-Secretary, Boniface Emenalo, challenging the decision of an Abuja High Court which held that they both had a case to answer with respect to allegation that they received $620, 000 as bribe from the Chairman, Zenon Oil and Gas, Femi Otedola, ostensibly to exclude the names of Otedola's companies – Zenon Petroleum and Gas as well as Synopsis Enterprises Limited – from the list of companies found to have allegedly defrauded the federal government of billions of naira.
In a unanimous judgment, the appellate court found the appeal unmeritorous and consequently dismissed it.
Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi had earlier held that they both had a case to answer.
The trial is likely to face further delay because Justice Oniyangi was recently elevated to the Court of Appeal.
The Chief Judge of Abuja High Court will have to re-assign the case to another judge who will start the trial afresh.
The prosecutor, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), said he would do a letter to the chief judge asking him to re-assign the case.
It was not clear at press time whether the accused persons will challenge the judgment of the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court.
While sitting at the Abuja High Court, Justice Oniyangi had insisted on proceeding with the trial after refusing the accused persons' prayer for stay of proceedings pending the determination of the appeal that was dismissed yesterday.
The court had in a May 10, 2013 ruling refused their request that the seven-count charge, on which they were arraigned on February 1, 2013 be quashed.
Lawan and Emenalo are being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for allegedly receiving $620,000 as bribe from the Chairman, Zenon Oil and Gas, Femi Otedola, ostensibly to exclude the names of Otedola's companies from the list of companies found to have allegedly defrauded the federal government of billions of naira.
In refusing too stay the proceeding, Justice Oniyangi had ruled that their motion for stay of proceedings was unmeritorious.
The judge held that the motion if granted, would occasion delay in the case.
He held that in line with the provision of Section 36(4) of the Constitution, time was of the essence in the trial of criminal cases.
Justice Oniyangi noted that the appeal was the type that would not negatively affect the interest of parties, whichever way it ends.
This, he observed, was because the accused persons had given indication that the appeal would be promptly heard. And that, if that was the case, it implied that the appeal would be decided before the trial was concluded.
The judge held that the nature of the case against the two lawmakers was that in which undue delay could destroy the res (the subject of dispute) and evidence.
"I do not consider that this is a special circumstance on which proceedings in the case could be stayed.
"It is my view that granting a stay will constitute an antithesis to the expeditious hearing of this case. Neither of the party would be adversely affected whichever way the appeal is decided.
"I therefore hold that this is not a proper circumstance where the court can exercise its discretion in favour of the applicants," Justice Oniyangi held.