Ex-Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on an investigation into fuel subsidy regime in 2012, Farouk Lawan, told the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja on Tuesday that his first defence witness’ brother in his ongoing bribery case was killed by Lassa fever in Kano, on Sunday.
Lawan, on Tuesday, gave this as the reason for his inability to open his defence in the bribery case instituted against him since 2012.
The former legislator, who was present in court on Tuesday, is being prosecuted for allegedly accepting $500,000 as bribe for the removal of billionaire businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola’s company’s name, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, from the list of firms indicted by the House committee for alleged fraud in the subsidy scheme.
Justice Angela Otaluka, had in her ruling delivered on October 17, 2019, dismissed the no-case submission which Lawan filed after the prosecution closed its case with five witnesses, including Otedola.
The judge had ruled that contrary to Lawan’s contention in his no-case submission, the prosecution made out a prima facie case against him which he had to defend.
The court directed him to open his defence on November 11, 2019.
Due to unconfirmed reasons, the trial was further adjourned till Tuesday.
But on Tuesday, Mr Benson Igbanoi, who stood in for Lawan’s lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said despite being ready for the trial, they were unable to proceed to open the defendant’s case because his “sole witness” who was meant to testify at the hearing could not attend proceedings because he was bereaved.
Igbanoi said they received the news of the loss of the witness’ brother to Lassa fever on Sunday.
He said, “We are very much ready to open our defence today.
“However, late Sunday night, we received news that the sole witness of the defendant lost a brother to the dreaded Lassa fever that hit Kano city.
“My lord in the circumstance, regrettably, we are unable to go on to open our defence today.
“We are therefore constrained to plead with my noble lord to grant us a short adjournment because our sole witness is so devastated.”
He said his team had written a letter to the court and a copy of which was served on the prosecution stating the defence team’s “predicament” and suggesting an adjournment of the case till February 11.
The lead prosecuting counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, confirmed that he received the letter dated January 27, 2020 (Monday) from Ozekhome’s law firm.
He said he had to “reluctantly concede to another adjournment” since the reason adduced for it involved the loss of a human being.
But urged the court to direct the defendant “to keep to February 11 so that he does not come that day and say he is asking for another adjournment of the case.”
The judge granted the defence’s request and adjourned the case till February 11.