A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has discharged and acquitted the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Paul Usoro (SAN) of the N4.2 billion fraud charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC).
Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that the anti graft agency failed to establish any prima facie case against Mr Usoro that will warrant him to enter a defence.
The judge, who delivered the ruling following Mr. Usoro’s “no case” submission, noted that the Penal Code, under which the NBA leader was charged, is not applicable to the southern states of Lagos and Akwa-Ibom, which were said to be the locations of the alleged offences.
“On the whole, I hold that the prosecution has failed to establish any prima facie case.
“Accordingly, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted,” Justice Aikawa held.
In the defendant’s application, his counsel, Effiong O. Effiong (SAN) submitted that the EFCC called only two witnesses and closed its case because, according to him, it knew it didn’t have any case against the defendants.
But, in opposition, the prosecution’s counsel, Kufre Uduak, had urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission and order the defendants begin their defence, citing the “overwhelming evidence” it said it had adduced and exhibits admitted in evidence.
The agency arraigned Mr Usoro on December 18, 2018 before Justice Muslim Hassan on a 10-count charge.
He pleaded not guilty to all the counts and was subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa.
He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion property of Akwa Ibom State Government, on May 14, 2016, a sum which the EFCC alleged formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity.
In his testimony before the court, an EFCC investigating officer, Abdulrahman Arabo said that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, hired Mr Usoro who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him at the Election Tribunal where his victory was being challenged in 2015.
The EFFC witness also testified that the sum of N1.4 billion legal fees paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.
Usoro vigorously denied the allegations.
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