By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
Former co-accused to the ex-Chairman, House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Farouk Lawan, Boniface Emenalo has agreed to testify against Lawan in the case of acceptance of bribe earlier brought against him and Lawan.
Until yesterday, Lawan and Emenalo, who acted as the committeeâ€™s Secretary, were listed as defendants in the seven-count charge earlier brought against them by the Independent Corrupt practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
But, yesterday, prosecution lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo announced that the prosecution has amended the charge to, reducing the counts to three and deleting Emenalo asa defendant.
He invited Emenalo as prosecution witness shortly after Lawan was re-arraigned on the amended charge.
The amended charged indicated that Lawan corruptly asked for $3m from Otedola and did corruptly collect $500,000 from the business man.
The offences are said to be contrary to sections 8(1)(a) and 17(1) (a) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under sections (8(1) and 17(1) of the same Act.
Awomolo, through Emenalo as 1stÂ prosecution witness, tendered some documents in aid of the prosecutionâ€™s case.
The documents tendered by the prosecution through Emenalo include:Â Â Order Paper for the special session sitting of the House of Representatives on Sunday, January 8, 2012; votes and proceedings of the special session on the same date; Order Paper, vote and proceedings of the House on Wednesday April 18, 2012; and Order Paper, votes and proceedings of Tuesday April 24, 2012.
Also tendered by the prosecution as exhibit was ‘Report of an ad hoc committee to determine the actual subsidy requirement and monitor the implementation of the subsidy regime in Nigeria (Resolution number HR.1/2012â€Ž)’.
â€ŽTrial judge, Justice Angela Otakula, dismissed the objection by the defence counsel, Sekop Zumka, who had contended that the documents were not admissible as exhibits on the grounds that the prosecution failed to provide the evidence of payment for its certification by the House of Representatives as provided for in the Evidence Act, 2011.
Zumka had also contended that the court ought to reject the documents since they were produced only after the pendency of the case.
â€ŽThe judge in dismissing the objection relied on a Supreme Court judgment which she said had “enjoined the court to do substantial justice rather than technicality.”
Justice Otakula held that the non-payment of the fee should not render a document inadmissible in as much as it was relevant to the case.
She also held that there was no provision of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 which prohibitting the tendering of documents obtained after a case was filed.
She therefore ordered that the documents be admitted as exhibits but subject to the payment for the necessary fees by the prosecution.
The prosecution was given seven days to pay the fees.
Justice Otaluka upheld the objection by the defence lawyer to the admissibility of a letter dated February 1, 2016 sent by the Clerk of the House of Representatives to the prosecuting counsel, Awomolo.
She upheld the defenceâ€™s contention to the effect that, since the document was not certified, Awomolo, whom the letter was served on, could not as a lawyer tender it from the bar.
The judge earlier refused to hear a preliminary application filed by the defence seeking to quash the charges on the grounds of alleged lack of jurisdiction by the court to entertain the case.
She sustained the prosecution’s opposition to the hearing of the application on the grounds that section 396(2) of the ACJ Act had clearly provided that such application could only be considered along with the substantive issue.
Further hearing in the case is fixed forÂ February 9.