Bribery: Supreme Court affirms Farouk Lawan’s five-year sentence

THE Supreme Court of Nigeria has upheld a ruling that sentenced former House of Representatives member Farouk Lawan to five years imprisonment for bribery.

The court gave the ruling following an appeal by the former lawmaker against previous judgments by lower courts convicting him of bribery.

Supreme Court Justice Tijjani Abubakar, who read the judgement on Friday, January 26 held that Lawan’s appeal was without merit, and dismissed it.

In 2021, a High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) sentenced Lawan, who was former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Petroleum Subsidy, to prison.

Lawan was first arraigned in 2012 by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on three counts for soliciting bribes to remove a company owned by Nigerian businessman Femi Otedola, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited, from the list of companies involved in fuel subsidy fraud.

He had demanded $3 million and received $500,000 from Otedola, who had earlier maintained that his company was not involved in the scam, but provided that money as part of a plan by the State Security Service (SSS).

Otedola had submitted a petition to the SSS over Lawan’s demand for a bribe and was given marked notes to use for the payment as a means of gathering evidence by the security agency. Otedola also recorded the transaction in a video that eventually went viral.

After receiving the payment from Otedola, Lawan moved a motion at the House to remove Zenon Oil and Gas from the list.

    Lawan was found guilty of the charge, though he claimed the money was received to present it as evidence before the House.

    The High Court ruled that the accused did not report the incident to law enforcement agencies and, therefore, could not prove that he intended to use the money as evidence.

    He was to serve two prison terms of seven and five years concurrently and was ordered to return the $500,000 to the government.

    However, an Appeal Court overturned the previous ruling on two of the three counts he was tried for, reducing his jail term from seven to five years.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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