The Cpurt of Appeal on Tuesday in Abuja court dismissed the application filed by former lawmaker, Farouk Lawan seeking to terminate the three million dollars bribery charges filed by the Federal Government.
Lawan had approached the appellate court to set aside the decision of Justice Angela Otaluka of an Abuja High Court and free him from the charges.
Delivering judgment in the appeal filed against the ruling of Otaluka which held that Lawan had a case to answer ,Justice Olabisi Ige who headed the panel held that the decision of the lower court was well founded.
The appellate court in a unanimous decision held that a prima facie case was well established against Lawan that warranted him to enter his defense in the three counts charges brought against him since 2013.
Justice Ige held that contrary to the argument of Lawan, the prosecution evidence at the lower court was not in anyway discredited, hence the rejection of his no-case submission.
The appellate court also held that the language of the trial judge, Justice Otaluka which Lawan complained about, did not place the defendant in any disadvantage position or was in anyway inimical to his trial.
The judge, who quoted the records of proceedings of the FCTHigh Court, especially the testimonies of the five witnesses called by the federal government.
The panel upheld the findings of Justice Otaluka that there were sufficient evidence linking Lawan to the offences.
“I am of the firm view and I have no doubt that the oral and documentary evidence presented by the prosecution sufficiently linked the appellant to the charges against him and to warrant his being called upon to make his defense.
“Prosecution evidence was not slanted in favour of the prosecution. In all, all the four issues raised in this appeal are hereby resolved against the appellant. His appeal, being un-meritorios is hereby dismissed”, he held .
Justice Otaluka had sometimes last year dismissed the no-case-submission filed by Lawan who was then Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Oil and Gas in his alleged 3 million dollars bribery trial.
The prosecution closed its case after calling five witnesses, Lawan, through his counsel, Mike Ozekhome SAN, had filed a no-case submission on the grounds that the evidence and testimonies did not link Lawan to the crime.
Ozekhome said the prosecution’s witnesses gave conflicting statements about the amount Lawan was alleged to have collected from the fifth prosecution witness, Mr Femi Otedola, who offered the alleged bribe to Lawan.
Ozekhome in addition argued that the video evidence showing how Lawan collected bribe from Otedola was blurry and does not necessarily prove that the content of the envelope Otedola gave to Lawan was money but could have been anything else.
He further submitted that if the Department of State Services (DSS) had any evidence they would have arrested Lawan immediately at the scene of the bribery which they claimed they set up.
Responding, prosecution lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission and ordered the defendant to enter his defense.
He added that, because the prosecution had established sufficient evidence through video and oral testimonies which linked Lawan to the alleged offences.
NAN reports that Justice Otaluka agreed with the submission of Awomolo and ordered Lawan to open his defense.
Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)
Group lauds Buhari on Edo Governorship poll
The Southern Nigeria Peoples Mandate (SNPM), a political pressure group, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for ensuring hitch-free, fair and credible governorship election in Edo.
Mr Augustine Chukwudum, President of the group, made the commendation while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria in Enugu on Monday.
“We commend our amiable President for allowing the election to be free, fair and credible. This shows that the President is a democrat that every Nigerian must be proud of.
“This was not the case when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was at the helm of affairs of the Federal Government between 2003 to 2009.
“We are asking PDP at national level to thank the President for providing level playing ground for all candidates at the election, ” Chukwudum said.
He, however, congratulated Gov. Godwin Obaseki on his re-election for a second term in office, adding that it was a victory well deserved after a keenly contested election.
“It is widely evident that the governor performed very well for the people of Edo in the past three years.
“SNPM call on Obaseki to see his victory as divine mandate to improve on infrastructure in all communities in the state.
“Once more, we congratulate him and pray that the will of God would continue to shine in Edo,’’ he added.
Buhari holds closed-door meeting with Ghanaian president at Aso Villa
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday night met behind closed doors with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Bashir Ahmad, the President’s Personal Assistant on New Media, confirmed this on his Twitter handle.
The presidential aide, who could not elaborate on the agenda of the meeting between the two leaders, however, posted pictures in which the Nigerian leader could be seen escorting his guest after the meeting.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the closure of shops owned by Nigerian traders in Ghana had heightened tensions between the two countries, a situation which led the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama to summon Ghana’s Charge d Affaires to Nigeria, Ms Iva Denoo for discussions.
Onyeama had also met with representatives of Nigerian traders in Ghana, led by Jasper Emenike, the National President of Progressive Ambassadors of Nigeria (PAN), and the organisation’s National Director, Ruth Ango over the matter.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had also visited Ghana on Sept. 2 with a view to seeing how the issues at stake could be resolved amicably.
According to the speaker, the closure of the Nigerian shops in Ghana contravenes the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement of citizens of member states, and trade liberalisation scheme.
NAN reports that the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) adopted in 1979 with an agreement on agricultural, artisanal handicrafts, and unprocessed products, and extended to industrial products in 1990, is the main framework for trade and market integration in ECOWAS as it addresses protocols on the free movement of goods, persons, and transportation.
The scheme’s main pursuit of consolidating the free trade area is guided by the National Approval Committee that informs the member states.
Similarly, Article (3) of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS on trade and market integration stipulates the removal of trade barriers and harmonisation of trade policies for the establishment of a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market and an eventual culmination in to a Monetary and Economic Union in West Africa.
NAN further reports that the Ghanaian government had proposed a meeting between the two leaders prior to the one they held behind closed doors on Sunday.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
Health workers suspend 7-day nationwide warning strike
Members of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), have suspended their seven-day nationwide warning strike.
Mr Josiah Biobelemoye, JOHESU National Chairman, made this known in a statement at the end of its expanded National Executive Council meeting on Sunday in Abuja.
Biobelemoye directed all members of the union to resume work by Sept. 21 and also await further directives.
The union demands included disparity in the payment of hazard and inducement allowances to workers in the frontline containing the spread of COVID-19 among others.
“This is to bring to your notice that the 7-day nationwide warning strike embarked upon by the members of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) would come to an end midnight of today, Sept. 20.
“By this notice, all health workers under the five Unions that make up Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) shall return to work on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020 across all Federal Health Institutions in the country.
“However, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Health has continued to exhibit high level of bias/discrimination by refusing to address the demands of our members as presented by JOHESU within the seven days of the warning strike as was done to other bodies in the health sector.
“The next line of action would be decided in due course by the expanded National Executive Council of JOHESU.”
He also alleged that rather than call JOHESU for dialogue to resolve the trade dispute, the Federal Government resorted to intimidation and blackmail of the union leaders using all forms of instruments and faceless organisations.
He further said that JOHESU would continue to use all legitimate means to defend the rights and demands for the welfare of its members in the health sector.
“Nigerians should bear us witness that JOHESU has shown high patriotism by demanding that public health system in Nigeria is sustained and adequately financed for effective, efficient and affordable healthcare service delivery.
“In view of the above and in line with the resolution of the expanded NEC meeting held physically and virtually today, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, I hereby declare that the seven days warning strike is suspended.
“All our members are directed to resume work by Monday, Sept. 21, 2020 while awaiting further directives.
“Finally, I wish to thank all the leaders at all strata and members for their commitment, selflessness, cooperation and resilience during the seven days warning strike,” he said.
Edited By: Dianabasi Effiong/Felix Ajide
Survival Fund: FG releases registration schedule as portal opens Monday
As the portal for the registration of prospective beneficiaries for the Survival Fund opens on Monday, the Federal Government has released the timetable for categories of businesses to register.
A statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by the Project Delivery Office stated that the portal which opens at 10 PM, will have educational institutions as the first category of beneficiaries to register.
“Nigerians interested in the Payroll Support scheme are to note that the site for registration will be open from 10 pm Monday September 21, 2020.
“In order to ensure seamless registration process, the Project Delivery Office (PDO) has designed a registration schedule.
“Registration for Payroll Support will start with educational institutions on Monday and will be followed with businesses in the hospitality industry on Friday September 25 beginning from 12 A.M.
“The portal will also be open to other category of small businesses from 12 A.M., on Monday September 28, 2020,” the statement said.
The office therefore advised those interested in benefiting from the fund to take note of the schedule and also log on to http://www.survivalfund.ng to register for the payroll support initiative.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the survival fund is a conditional grant to support vulnerable Micro and Small enterprises in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs in MSMEs from the shock of the COVID– 19 pandemic.
The scheme is estimated to save at least 1.3 million jobs across the country, while targeting an average of 35,000 individuals per state.
Edited By: Ismail Abdulaziz