A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has reserved its ruling in the ‘no-case submission’ filed by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro SAN.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa fixed June 10 for ruling after hearing the arguments of both counsels for the prosecution and defendant.
At the proceedings on Friday, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Effiong Effiong, led three other SANs – Sina Sofola, Bode Olanipekun and Chukwuka Ikwuazom, to appear for the former NBA President who is also a senior advocate of Nigeria.
Arguing the no-case submission filed on February 25, Effiong submitted that the prosecution – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) only called two witnesses and closed its case because they knew they didn’t have any case against the defendants.
He anchored his argument on 4 grounds which were:
- The essential elements of the offences charged have not been proved.
- The Prosecution’s evidence has been so completely discredited, inter alia, under cross-examination such that no reasonable court or tribunal would convict on it.
- There is no evidence linking Paul Usoro SAN with the Commission of the offences with which he is charged.
- A prima facie case has not been made against Defendant for him to be called upon to answer.
Defendant submitted that:
- As deficient as PW2’s testimony is, the prosecution did not prove the most crucial and essential element of the offence in count 7, 8, 9 and 10 to wit, the allegation that the N830,000,000.00, remained the property of AKSG at all times material to the charge.
- The prosecution failed to present a prima Facie case in proof of the allegation that the N300,000.00 was the property of AKSG
- The aggregate payment by AKS MOJ into Paul Usoro &Co’s Access Bank Account that is in issue in the Surviving counts of the charge is N830,000,000.00 made up of N530,000,000.00 in count 7, N40,000,000.00, in count 8, and 260,000,000.00 in count 9 and not the N110,000,000.00 fees that is mentioned in PW’s testimony. In particular, the 280,000,000.00 fees that were paid by AK MOJ on 15th January 2016, is not the subject of any surviving count 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.
- The evidence of the Prosecution’s witnesses were thoroughly discredited both by documentary evidence and under cross-examination and proved to be manifestly unreliable such that no reasonable court would convict on the same.
He urged the court to allow the no-case submission because the prosecution has failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants.
“We respectfully press this authority on your Lordship on this ground to invoke the court’s powers under Section 302 303 of ACJA to discharge the Defendant on count 7, 8, 9 and 10 and to hold “that the evidence against the Defendant is not sufficient to justify the continuation of the trial on these counts”.
Counsel to the EFCC, Uduak Kufre, informed the court of his counter-affidavit filed in opposition to the application of the defendant.
Uduak urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission in view of the overwhelming evidence adduced by the prosecution and the exhibits admitted in evidence.
He also asked the court to order the defendant to enter his defence while Justice Aikawa reserved a ruling on the no-case submission until June 10.
The EFCC had on the 18th of February closed its case after calling two witnesses to give their testimonies.
In his testimony before the court, an investigating officer with the EFCC, Abdulrahman Arabo, said that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, hired 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 fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.
Of this amount, the sum of N55 million was allegedly paid by Usoro as a kick-back into the account of Akwa Ibom State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Uwemedimo Nwoko.
Usoro was arraigned for the alleged offence on December 18, 2018, before Justice Muslim Hassan of the same court.
He was re-arraigned on March 1, 2019 on 10 counts bordering on laundering money for some Akwa Ibom State government officials to the tune of N1.4 billion.
One of the counts against the defendant read, “That you, Paul Usoro, SAN, Emmanuel Udom (currently constitutionally immune against criminal prosecution), Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko (still at large), Nsikan Linus Nkan, Commissioner of Finance, Akwa Ibom State (still at large), Mfon Jacobson Udomah, Accountant-General, Akwa Ibom State (still at large) and Margaret Thompson Ukpe (still at large), sometime in 2015 in Nigeria, conspired…to commit an offence, to wit: conversion of N1,410,000,000,000 property of the Government of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria.”