By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
A former Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee that investigated alleged sharp practices in the fuel subsidy regime in 2012, Farouk Lawan failed again on Tuesday to call witnesses in his defence in his trial before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Apo, Abuja.
Lawan, who was billed to commence his defence on Tuesday, told the court that his main witness lost his brother to lassa fever in Kano last Sunday.
The ex-lawmaker is being tried 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.
In a ruling on October 17, 2019, the trial judge, Justice Angela rejected Lawan’s no-case submission and held among others, that contrary to the defendant’s argument, the prosecution made out a prima facie case against him to warrant his being called to enter a defence.
Justice Otaluka then ordered Lawan to open his defence on November 11, 2019, which he has been unable to do since then.
On Tuesday, Lawan’s lawyer, Benson Igbanoi said the defendant was ready to open his defence but could not proceed because his only witness, who ought to testify, could not attend court because he was bereaved.
Igbanoi said they received the news of the loss of the witness’ brother to Lassa fever on Sunday.
The defence lawyer 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.”
Igbanoi added that the defence wrote a letter to the court. He said a copy of the letter was served on the prosecution.
He prayed the court for a postponement of proceedings till February 11 this year.
Lead prosecution lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) acknowledged receiving the letter dated January 27, 2020.
Awomolo said he would reluctantly concede to another adjournment because the reason given by the defence related to the loss of a human being.
He 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.
Justice Otaluka then granted the request for adjournment and fixed February 11 this year as the returned dated.