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 a two-count charge of fraud and money laundering, has a pending appeal at the Supreme Court where he is seeking to upturn his conviction and sentence.
On 1 July, 2022, Mr Nwaoboshi was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison by the Court of Appeal in Lagos.
But the senator has deployed several tactics to evade serving his jail term, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
Delivering its ruling on Mr Nwaoboshi’s post-conviction request, Emmanuel Agim, a member of the Supreme Court’s panel of justices, said, “…He (Nwaoboshi) has remained at large, except for his occasional production of medical reports here and there. It is difficult to imagine where he is.
“While he remains at large, it is very difficult for this court to exercise any discretion in his favour.”
The justice noted that Mr Nwaoboshi being a fugitive cannot seek to benefit from the law.
Mr Nwaoboshi represents Delta North Senatorial District in Delta State. He is a flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 25 February senatorial election.
Agreeing with Mr Agim, a member of the Supreme Court panel that sat over the request, Tijjani Abubakar, said Mr Nwaoboshi’s behaviour was an assault on the rule of law.
“It is a very sad development in our democracy that a lawmaker has refused to respect the law of the land.
“This is a sad development. It is a slap on democracy, and a slap on the rule of law.”
Mr Abubakar warned that “…nobody is above the law. The government and the governed are subject to the rule of law. And, we must ensure that there is respect for the rule of law.
‘Lawmakers must lead by example’
Commenting further, Mr Abubakar advised lawmakers to “lead by example.”
“They make the laws, they must respect the laws. And, if they do not respect the laws, it means that they have failed in discharging their mandate.”
The justice vowed that judges would “continue to ensure that the rule of law prevails. My message is that nobody is above the law. The government and the governed are subject to the rule of law.
“The application is frivolous. It is vexatious. It is irritating,” Mr Abubakar said before dismissing Mr Nwaoboshi’s request.
The Court of Appeal in Lagos upon Mr Nwaoboshi’s conviction, ordered that his two companies, Golden Touch Construction Project Limited and Suiming Electrical Limited, be wound up in line with Section 22 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2021.
But, Mr Nwaoboshi though his lawyer, Kanu Agabi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), approached the Supreme Court to set aside his conviction.
Determined to extricate his client from jail, Mr Agabi, a former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), begged the Supreme Court to speed up hearing in Mr Nwaoboshi’s appeal.
He told the Supreme Court panel that was led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola, that Mr Nwaoboshi “is seeking re-election in the 2023 general elections.”
The lawyer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abba Mohammed, did not object to Mr Nwaoboshi’s application.
Subsequently, Mr Ariwoola rescheduled the hearing of the appeal for 9 February, 2022 instead of the earlier date of 21 November, 2024.
In 2021, this newspaper reported that Mr Nwaoboshi was accused by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) of using 11 companies as fronts to secure for himself a N3.6 billion contract in the commission. The contract was not executed and the money was not refunded.
In 2018, Mr Nwaoboshi and his two companies were arraigned before the Federal High Court in Lagos over N322 million fraud and money laundering charges.
The EFCC arraigned the three defendants for acquiring a property named Guinea House, Marine Road, in Apapa, Lagos, for N805 million. The agency said that N322 million of the money was part of the proceeds of fraud.
The judge, Chukwujekwu Aneke, held that the EFCC could not prove the charges filed against Mr Nwaoboshi.
However, the anti-graft agency appealed Mr Aneke’s ruling and was successful at the Court of Appeal, leading to Mr Nwaoboshi’s sentencing.
The Federal High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, similarly jailed the senator representing Akwa Ibom North East district, Albert Akpan, on corruption charges on 1 December 2022.
He was accused of receiving bribes of 12 cars worth N254 million from an oil marketer, Olajide Omokore, during his tenure as commissioner for finance in Akwa Ibom State between 2010 and 2014. He served in the administration of Governor Godswill Akpabio.
The convict, who is the Akwa Ibom State governorship candidate of his new party, the YPP, in the forthcoming March 2023 governorship election, was, however, lucky to obtain a post-conviction bail granted him by the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, late December 2022.
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