Abuja - The Federal High Court on Friday in Abuja granted Farouk Lawan, the former Chairman, House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring of Fuel Subsidy Regime, bail.
Lawan, a serving lawmaker from Kano State, is standing trial for allegedly receiving 3.5 million dollars (about N625 million) bribe.
Delivering the ruling, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi held that Section 35 (5) of the 1999 Constitution considers the accused innocent in such matter until proven guilty.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the second accused, Emenalo Boniface, was also granted bail.
The prosecution had alleged that Boniface, an assistant director, who acted as the Secretary of the Committee, received 120,000 dollars (about N18 million) from the deal.
``I have studied the submissions of counsel to parties in this matter and the court is disposed to admitting the accused persons to bail.
``The bail sum is N10 million with two sureties. The bail is, however, free but it becomes effective upon the fulfillment of the stated conditions.
``The accused persons are not expected to travel out of the country during the pendency of the trial and therefore, they are mandated to surrender their travel passports to the registrar of the court.
``The court’s decision to admit the accused persons on bail is also predicated on the conviction that they would not jump justice.
``In fact, the report available to the court says they are presently enjoying administrative bail and that they have always yielded to police invitation during the investigation,’’ he said.
Lawan is charged with corruptly obtaining 500,000 dollars for himself from Mr Femi Otedola, the Chairman, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, as inducement to remove the company’s name from the committee’s report, among other charges.
Similarly, Boniface, an assistant director and secretary of the committee, is alleged to have ``corruptly asked for 3,000,000 dollars from Mr Femi Otedola’’.
Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), the prosecution counsel said Farouk committed an offence contrary to Section 17 (1) of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000, punishable under section 17 (1) of the same Act.
He said that Boniface also committed an offence contrary to Section 8 (1) (b) (ii) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000, punishable under section 23 (3) of the same Act, but the two pleaded not guilty.
Mr Rickey Tarfa, the counsel to the accused, on Feb. 1, filed the bail application, urging the court to grant his clients bail on self-recognition.
Tarfa said that the accused were eminent officials in the National Assembly and had met all the 37 invitations extended to them by the police during the investigation of the matter.
He said that the first accused (Lawan) had travelled abroad four times since the beginning of investigation into the matter.
The counsel added that Boniface, the second accused, had travelled to the United States twice since the beginning of the investigation.
He noted that Section 35(5) of the 1999 Constitution guaranteed the liberty of the accused persons, pending the determination of the suit.
Awomolo, however, opposed the application, saying that the accused must be stopped from riding on the back of Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution.
He explained that the right of liberty of the citizens guaranteed by the provision was not absolute, adding that the offence committed was not bailable.
Oniyangi adjourned hearing in the matter to April 10 and April 17.