May 21, 2024

Bail-on-the-Run: Supreme Court Denies the Bail Application of Senator Peter Nwaoboshi

The application for post-conviction bail made by the Senator representing Delta North, Mr. Peter Nwaoboshi, who has been on the run since his conviction verdict, was denied bail by the Supreme Court on Friday.

Nwaoboshi had applied to the apex court to overturn the verdict that had found him guilty of money laundering and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

The appellant was found guilty by the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on July 1, 2022, of a two-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.

In accordance with Section 22 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2021, the appellate court also ordered the liquidation of his two businesses, Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd. and Suiming Electrical Ltd.

The legislator, dissatisfied with the verdict, not only requested that the supreme court overturn it, but he also requested bail while his appeal was considered.

However, a five-member Supreme Court panel dismissed the application in a unanimous decision on Friday, noting that Nwaoboshi went underground immediately after his conviction rather than serving time in prison.

It said that the legislator’s behaviour was a blow to democracy and the rule of law. The supreme court said in the lead judgment, which was delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, as to the reason why Nwaoboshi, who refused to submit to the law, filed the application for the law’s indulgence.

The appellant, according to Justice Agim, ought to have obeyed the law because he was a serving senator and an APC senatorial candidate for the upcoming election.

The court emphasized that the undisputed facts it had before it demonstrated that the appellant has continued to devise means to avoid the current custodial sentence he was given by the Court of Appeal, even though he is hiding in the country.

Worst still, he 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,”  Agim held

Justice Tijani Abubakar criticized the Appellant in his contribution for submitting the bail application while the Appellant was in hiding.

This is a sad development. It is a slap on democracy, and a slap on the Rule of Law.

“We must make it very, very clear to all Nigerians 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.

Justice Abubakar added that lawmakers must lead by example by respecting the very law they made.

Additionally, their failure to carry out their duties indicate that they have failed to fulfill their mandate.

We maintain our commitment to upholding the rule of law. My message is that no one is above the law. The rule of law applies to both the governed and the government.

“The application is frivolous, vexatious and irritating,” Justice Abubakar stated.

Justices Amina Augie, Uwani Abba-Aji, and Adamu Jauro, who were also on the panel, concurred with the main decision and rejected the bail application.

It should be recalled that the decision by the appellate court that found Nwaoboshi guilty was the result of an appeal that the EFCC filed to challenge the verdict of Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Federal High Court in Lagos, who had acquitted the lawmaker and his businesses on June 18, 2021.

The EFCC had, among other things, claimed that the three defendants had acquired Guinea House, Marine Road, in Apapa, Lagos, for N805 million in a fraudulent transaction.

It claimed that a portion of the money paid to the vendor was fraudulent proceeds, specifically N322 million transferred by Suiming Electrical Ltd on behalf of Nwaoboshi and Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd.

The Court of Appeal had stated that it was satisfied that the EFCC proved all of the essential components of the charge, in contrast to the trial court’s decision that the prosecution failed to call vital witnesses and provide concrete evidence to prove the elements of the offenses for which it charged the defendants.

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