The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an application for post-conviction bail brought by Peter Nwaoboshi, a serving senator jailed for seven years on money laundering charges.
The Court of Appeal in Lagos had, in a judgment on July 1, 2022, convicted and sentenced Nwaoboshi on the charge brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Rather than serving the jail term, Nwaoboshi, who is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for Delta North Senatorial District in Delta State in the forthcoming election, went underground.
While still in hiding, Nwaoboshi filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence, along with the application with which he sought to be granted bail pending the determination of his appeal.
Ruling on Friday, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court, while dismissing the application, noted that Nwaoboshi’s conduct was a slap on the face of democracy and rule of law.
Justice Emmanuel Agim, in the lead judgment, wondered why Nwaoboshi, who refused to submit himself to the law, was now seeking the indulgence of the law.
Justice Agim noted that being a serving senator and a candidate of the APC for Senator Delta North Senatorial District ought to be an assurance that “he is law-abiding and will readily submit to the authority of the law.”
He added that despite the fact that Nwaoboshi has an appeal pending before the court, his application could not be granted because of the undisputed fact that he is in Nigeria, but has continued to devise means to frustrate the subsisting custodial sentence imposed on him by the Court of Appeal.
Justice Agim added: “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.”
The judge said Nwaoboshi could not remain in defiance of the law and yet seek to benefit from the law.
In his contribution, Justice Tijani Abubakar wondered why a lawmaker of the status of a senator would find it difficult to obey the law he participated in enacting.
He added: “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. 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.”
According to him: “Lawmakers must 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.
“On our part, we 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.”
Justice Abubakar concluded thus: “His application is frivolous. It is vexatious. It is irritating.”
Other members of the panel–Justices Amina Augie, Uwani Abba-Aji and Adamu Jauro–agreed with the lead judgment.