$620,000 bribery charge instituted against a former Chairman, House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Mr. Farouk Lawan, has been reassigned to another judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Lawan is being prosecuted alongside a former Secretary of the committee, Boniface Emenalo, on seven-count charges of bribery by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC.
The former trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, who presided over the case in the Gudu Division of the Federal Capital Territory judiciary, withdrew in November 2014 over allegations of bias leveled against her by Lawan.
Lawan, in a petition to the Chief Judge of the FCT, sought re-assignment of the case, adding that Justice Banjoko was close to a business mogul, Mr. Femi Otedola, who was the accuser and a proposed prosecution witness.
Apart from the petition, Lawan had also through his counsel, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, filed a motion before Justice Banjoko, asking her to disqualify herself from handling the case on the same grounds of likelihood of bias.
He had in the two documents alleged that the judge was likely to be biased against him because she and her family were close to Otedola, the Chairman of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited.
Banjoko voluntarily withdrew from the case and ordered that the case file be returned to the FCT Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Bukar, despite the withdrawal of the motion filed by Lawan.
Nigerian pilot gathered from a lawyer who is involved in the matter that the case had been assigned to the Lugbe Division of the court.
The lawyer, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said he was yet to ascertain the particular judge to whom it was assigned to.
When contacted, counsel to the ICPC, Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, said he was yet to receive a hearing notice on the case and could not confirm if it had been re-assigned or not.
“I have not received the hearing notice. So, I can’t confirm it,” he said.
Whoever the matter is assigned to will be the third since the accused persons were first arraigned on seven-counts of bribery on February 1, 2013.
The accused were re-arraigned before Justice Banjoko on June 11, 2014, following the elevation of the initial trial judge, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi, to the Court of Appeal.
Lawan and Emenalo are being prosecuted by the ICPC for allegedly obtaining $620,000 from Otedola in the course of performing the committee’s duty in 2012.
They were accused of collecting the bribe in April 2012 from Otedola in order to remove his companies’ from the list of firms indicted by the committee for abusing the fuel subsidy regime.

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