Ex-INEC officials urge court to quash fraud charges, acquit them


Ex-INEC official, Nwosu with a security operative.

By Ibe Uwaleke

A Federal High Court, Lagos, sitting on fiat at Ikoyi, has fixed Wednesday August 15, 2018 to rule on whether the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has established the four-count charge against the former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) top officers, namely: Christian Nwosu, Yisa Olarennwaju Adedoyin and Tijani Inda Bashir who are standing trial for allegedly misappropriating over N264.8m which EFCC regarded as proceeds of corruption because it was money meant for 2015 presidential election which was allegedly given to them through instructions by ex-minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke through a commercial bank, Fidelity Bank Plc. They have long denied this allegation and subsequently granted bail by the court.

These officials, herein referred to as  the accused, provoked this recent development following a no-case submission they made on Monday August 13, 2018 through their lawyers led by Mr. Victor Opara. Others who were with him are: Obinna Nnaemeka Okereke and Ogbonnaya Sonuga (Mrs).

In the no-case submission, the accused moved the court sitting before Justice Mohammed Idris, (now elevated to the Court of Appeal), to discharge and acquit them as according to them, EFCC, herein referred to as the prosecution, has failed to reasonably establish a prima facie case against them.

Their argument is that the prosecution’s case is ‘so manifestly unreliable that it will be unsafe and unjust for the court to convict the defendants on its strength, adding that the names of Diezani Allison-Madueke and the managing director of Fidelity Bank, Nnamdi Okonkwo were only bandied without inviting them to come and give evidence against the accused persons since they were the people who instructed and released the said sum to the defendants/applicants, instead the prosecution called witnesses, third party, who the defendants said, gave hear-say evidence against them.

In their view, establishing the ingredients of the charges against them, the evidence adduced by the prosecution must be cogent and positive before the defendants can be called upon to answer the allegations.

The defence lawyer therefore posited that the prosecution has failed to prove vital ingredients needed to establish the charges against the defendants because it  could not establish the agreement or confederacy against the defendants to commit the offences in the count-charges in the amended charge dated February 23, 2018.

His words: “My lord,  a no-case submission may be upheld where:

. “There is no evidence to prove an essential ingredient of the offence charged, or the evidence adduced by the prosecution has been so discredited as a result of cross-examination, or that the evidence in support of the case of the prosecution is manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal or court  can safely convict on it”.

Mr. Opara therefore urged the court to uphold the three ingredients so that the no-case submission would succeed, adding that the court would be administering justice in its pure and unadulterated form if it locates merit in the defendants’ no-case submission and returns a verdict of not guilty.

While citing several authorities including the Owhovoriole vs.Federal Republic of Nigeria (2003), Agbo vs. State (2013), Ugwu vs.State (2013), Ubanatu vs. C.O.P (2000) and Jolayemi vs. Olaoye (2005), among others, the lead counsel for the defendants/applicants, Opara, urged the court not to invite the accused to enter the witness box to defend themselves as the prima facie charges have not by any iota, scintilla, shred of prosecutorial effort been established.

But the Prosecution led by Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo Iseoluwa, appearing with Nnaemeka Omewa and Idris Abdullahi Mohammed told the court to hold that it cannot be called to express any opinion on the evidence before it at the stage of no case submission, adding that there is nothing the prosecution tendered from its witnesses that can be construed as hear-say at the present stage of the proceeding.

Oyedepo Iseoluwa submitted that the evidence on record clearly shows that the defendants took possession of the sum of N264,880,000.00 and confirmed the receipt of the said sum vide exhibit A and B, adding that the fact that the defendants admitted receipt of the sum, there is no further proof to show the amount was proceeds of gratification which is corruption.

It was also his submission that the defendants ought to have known that the amount collected and used was proceeds of unlawful activities.

While urging Justice Idris to dismiss the no case submission and invite the defendants to open their defence, the prosecution counsel said that the totality of the evidence by the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the defendants.

EFCC received an intelligence to the effect that Diezani Allison-Madueke received gratification from some oil marketers. The investigation revealed that the proceeds of the alleged gratification received by Mrs Allison-Madueke were kept with Fidelity Bank and were subsequently converted to the sum of N23billion and disbursed to several beneficiaries, including the defendants in this case, as alleged.