The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a post-conviction bail application filed by Peter Nwaoboshi, a Nigerian senator jailed for fraud.
Mr. Nwaoboshi, who was found guilty on one count of two counts of fraud and money laundering, has an appeal pending in the Supreme Court, where he is seeking to overturn his conviction and sentence.
On July 1, 2022, Mr. Nwaoboshi was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison by the Lagos Court of Appeal.
But the senator has deployed various tactics to evade serving his prison sentence, the Supreme Court said Friday.
Delivering his ruling on Mr. Nwaoboshi’s post-conviction application, Emmanuel Agim, a member of the Supreme Court’s panel of judges, said: “…He (Nwaoboshi) has remained at large, except for his occasional production of medical reports here and there. It’s hard to imagine where he is.
“As long as you remain a fugitive, it is very difficult for this court to exercise any discretion in your favor.”
The judge noted that Mr. Nwaoboshi, being a fugitive, cannot seek to take advantage of the law.
Mr. Nwaoboshi represents the Delta North Senate District in the state of Delta. He is a standard bearer for the Congress of All Progressives (APC) in the Senate elections on February 25.
Agreeing with Agim, a member of the Supreme Court panel that dealt with the request, Tijjani Abubakar said Nwaoboshi’s behavior was an attack on the rule of law.
“It is a very sad event in our democracy that a legislator has refused to respect the law of the land.
“This is a sad development. It is a slap in the face of democracy and a slap in the face of the rule of law.”
Abubakar warned that “…no one is above the law. The government and the governed are subject to the rule of law. And we must ensure that the rule of law is respected.
“Legislators must lead by example”
Commenting further, Mr. Abubakar advised lawmakers to “walk the talk.”
“They make the laws, they must respect the laws. And, if they do not respect the laws, it is because they have failed in the fulfillment of their mandate”.
The judge promised that the judges would “continue to ensure that the rule of law prevails. My message is that no one is above the law. The government and the governed are subject to the rule of law.
“The application is frivolous. it’s annoying. It’s irritating,” Abubakar said before dismissing Nwaoboshi’s application.
The Lagos Court of Appeal, following Mr. Nwaoboshi’s conviction, ordered his two companies, Golden Touch Construction Project Limited and Suiming Electrical Limited, to be wound up pursuant to Section 22 of the Prohibition of Money Laundering Act 2021 .
However, Mr. Nwaoboshi, through his lawyer, Kanu Agabi, a Senior Advocate for Nigeria (SAN), approached the Supreme Court to quash his conviction.
Determined to get his client out of jail, Mr. Agabi, a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), begged the Supreme Court to expedite the hearing of Mr. Nwaoboshi’s appeal.
He told the Supreme Court panel, which was led by Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola, that Mr. Nwaoboshi “is seeking re-election in the 2023 general election.”
The lawyer for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abba Mohammed, did not oppose Mr. Nwaoboshi’s request.
Subsequently, Mr. Ariwoola rescheduled the appeal hearing for February 9, 2022 instead of the previous date of November 21, 2024.
In 2021, this newspaper reported that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) accused Mr. Nwaoboshi of using 11 front companies to secure a Naira 3.6 billion contract at the commission. The contract was not executed and the money was not returned.
In 2018, Mr. Nwaoboshi and his two companies were indicted before the Lagos Federal High Court on charges of fraud and money laundering worth N322 million.
The EFCC prosecuted the three defendants for acquiring a property called Guinea House, Marine Road, in Apapa, Lagos, for N805 million. The agency said N322 million of the money was part of the proceeds of the fraud.
The judge, Chukwujekwu Aneke, held that the EFCC could not prove the charges brought against Mr. Nwaoboshi.
However, the anti-corruption agency appealed Mr. Aneke’s decision and was successful in the Court of Appeal, leading to the sentencing of Mr. Nwaoboshi.
The Federal High Court of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, similarly imprisoned the senator representing the north-eastern district of Akwa Ibom, Albert Akpan, on corruption charges on December 1, 2022.
He was accused of receiving bribes of 12 cars worth N254 million from an oil trader, Olajide Omokore, during his tenure as finance commissioner in Akwa Ibom state between 2010 and 2014. He served in the administration of Governor Godswill Akpabio.
However, the convict, who is the candidate for governor of Akwa Ibom state from his new party, the YPP, in the upcoming gubernatorial elections in March 2023, was lucky to obtain a post-conviction bond from the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, in late December 2022.
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