A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday discharged and acquitted ex President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Robert Azibaola, on corruption charges.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had accused Azibaola, his company, One Plus Holdings and his wife, Stella, of receiving $40m fraudulently from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in 2014.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, in a judgement on Monday said the EFCC was unable to prove the corruption allegations against Azibaola and he therefore dismissed the allegations against him.
According to Justice Dimgba: “When reasonable doubt is raised in a case it is bound to be resolved in favour of the defendant.
“I found him not guilty as charged.”
Dimgba said the anti corruption commission failed to provide the ingredients of corruption allegations against the defendants.
On March 30, 2018, Justice Dimgba, ruling on a no case sbmisson by the defendants, had ordered Azibaola and his company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, to enter their defence in respect of two counts.
He however, struck out the name of Azibaola’s wife, Stella, from the two charges.
The court upheld the no-case submission in relation to Counts 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.
In striking out the seven counts, the court ruled that there was no sufficient evidence to warrant defendants to enter their defence against the seven counts.
However, the court ruled that while the EFCC had led sufficient evidence linking Azibaola and the company to counts 2 and 3, it failed to connect the wife, Stella to the two charges.
In Monday’s judgment, the court held that despite the overwhelming evidence that Azibaola and his company collected the said money from the ONSA for the purpose of supply “tactical communication equipment” which obviously were not supplied, the EFCC failed to interview or investigate the then National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), whose office gave out the money.
Dimgba said EFCC’s failure to hear from the “horse’s month” or arraign Dasuki alongside Azibaola and One Plus Holdings, was fatal to its case.
He said though the EFCC anchored its argument on non supply of the communications equipment as stated in the contractual agreement with ONSA, “the defendants said it was for security assignment and that because of sensitive nature of security management, it was disguised as that, the prosecution did prove otherwise. The EFCC did not prove the alibi wrong.
“When a defendant raises an alibi and it is not challenged by the prosecution, it is resolved in favour of the defendant.
“The burden is on the prosecution to interview, investigate the case by interviewing Dasuki, which it failed to do”, the court held.
According to the court, the prosecution ought to have done more home work, though, Dimgba said “the EFCC was right to have raised the “red flag” with the payment of such money especially when the said equipment were not supplied but when the defendant provided alternative, the EFCC failed to prove otherwise”
The EFCC had earlier on May 23, 2016, arraigned Azibaola, his wife and their company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited on seven counts of money laundering involving the sum of $40m which he received from the ONSA.
The anti-graft agency had on April 20, 2017 amended the charges increasing the number of counts to nine.
The prosecuting counsel, Sylvaus Tahir had subsequently called 10 witnesses and tendered a total of 27 documents which were admitted as exhibits.
On February 19, 2018, the three defendants, through their lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), filed a no-case submission submitting that the prosecution had failed to link them to the commission of any of the nine counts.