Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on Wednesday reserved ruling on the no case-submission by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja, till April 5.
Justice Ademola, his wife, Olabowale and Joe Agi (SAN), are standing trial over allegation of conspiracy, receipt of gratification and illegal possession of fire arms.
At the close of prosecution case on February 21, the defendants have filed a no-case-submission, stating that there was no need for them to enter defence.
Arguing the motion Wednesday, at the resumed hearing , counsel to the first defendant (Justice Ademola), Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), told the court that since the prosecution has failed to establish a primae facie case to warrant the first defendant to enter his defence, the court should uphold the no-case-submission and strike out the suit.
Ikpeazu maintained that the prosecution did not provide any evidence before the court to sustain the 11 count charge.
On count bordering on acceptance of gratification, the counsel argued that the evidence of Prosecution Witness 16, Babatunde Adepoju, an operative of State Security Service (SSS), had adequately proved that money in question was not a bribe.
According to the counsel the witness who conducted investigation on the alleged bribe “had told the court that he could not link the alleged gratification with any case handled by Justice Ademola.”
“There must be that link before a witness is called into the witness box to counter the link. But in this case, there was no evidence to warrant the defendant to call his witnesses”, Ikpeazu submitted.
He therefore urged the court to hold that there was nothing on which any of the defendants could be called upon to enter defence.
“We are asking that the court notes the evidence of PW 16 and give effects to it.”
He said that gratification should not be seen on isolation but must be tied to an act, which according to him, has been dismissed by the evidence of PW 16.
He argued that the gift of N30m could only qualify for a gratification if it was offered for inducement or as a reward for an action, but that in the course of witnesses’ account, nobody has succeeded in linking the said amount to any trial presided over by Justice Ademola.
“In other words, the prosecution must establish that the money was not just a gift or consideration but the fact that it was an inducement or reward to the first defendant for having done something for the givers. It must be related to cases or a case that the first defendant acted upon in the discharge of his duties”, Ikpeazu said.
On the alleged illegal possession of firearms, the counsel recalled the evidence given by PW 16, who testified that the guns were legitimately issued by the aporopriate agency and that there were valid licenses for the guns, which covered the whole period of 2016.
But Justice Okeke called the attention of the defence to the earlier license tendered by the DSS, which was expired. He therefore urged him to reconcile the two exhibits.
In his explanation, the counsel recalled a statement issued by the first defendant, whereby he stated that the process of renewal had been made even though the agency responsible was yet to issue him the license.
He also noted that the same renewed license was made available to the court during trial and to which the prosecution did not raise any objection.
“If the DSS is relying on fireams Act and regulations, then, the PW 16 had destroyed that charge with the tendering of 2016 valid licenses”, he insisted.
In his argument, counsel to Mrs Ademola, Chief Robert Clerk (SAN), noted that his client was charged with conspiracy, an offence that was not recognised under the Penal Code.
On the statement that she fraudulently enriched the first defendant, the counsel expressed surprise that the word ‘conspiracy’ could be attached to a man, who was alleged to have committed an offence.
He added that the prosecution should establish the case or cases for which the money was allegedly paid as inducement.
According to him, no single witness had testified to have given the amount as bribe, neither did any of them point to any monetery transfer from the accounts of second or third defendants to that of the first defendant.
He also told the court that a witness from the DSS admitted not to have interviewed the second defendant but that he was only attracted by the the lodgements, which amounted to prosecution based on hear say, rather than proper investigation.
“It is not the act of giving that creates an offense; it is the intention. In relation to count two therefore, there was nothing testified by the witnesses that could make us to go into defence”, Clerk said.
He therefore urged the court to strike our the case, discharge and acquit the second defendant.
Counsel to the third defendant (Agi), Jeph Ejinkonye, urged the court to take another look at the account of prosecution witnesses to see if there was any need for his client to enter defense.
“For there to be a valid charge, there must be primae facie evidence. What evidence did the prosecution tender in respect of the BMW car? “The evidence was that the car was bought by Barrister Joe Agi. But the PW 16 had testified that he interviewed Ademide Ademola, who regarded Agi as a mentor. Ademola had told the investigators that Agi had promised him a gift if he passed his examination but he did not know it was going to be a car.
“The second ambit of allegation of gratification was the N30m Agi paid into Mrs Ademola’s account. In the charge, they did not link it to any case but during the trial, they tried to link it to Linas.
The defence cannot speculate. It is for the prosecution to establish a prima facie.
“If the N500,000 found to appointment of Ibrahim Rufai Imam as the Acting Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory. was not a bribe, why should other gifts given for the same purpose be accepted as bribe? He asked.
The PW 16, Adepoju, had admitted that it would be mere speculation to say that the gift given to the first defendant by President Muhammadu Buhari’s lawyer was a bribe.
The same PW 16 had also stated during cross-examination that “in all that I have seen, my initial view on this matter was based on incomplete evidence”.
Based on the above statement by PW 16, Ejinkonye urged the court to uphold the no-case-submission and strike out the case.
But the prosecution counsel, Segun Jegede, opposed the no-case-submission, insisting that the defendants have enough case to answer. He believed that the witnesses actually established enough primae facie that money was paid by the third defendant into the account of the second defendant in March 2015.
As for establishing a link between the N30m payment and the first defendant, Jegede noted that a witness had already admitted that there was a lodgement of N30m by Joe Agi.
For him, it was allegedly three per cent of the N3.2bn from one of the cases Justice Ademola delivered in favour of Agi’s client. “That is the link my lord”, Jegede stated.
According to him, the three garnishee orders made in favour of Agi by the first defendant, one of which came a day before a N10m lodgement was made into the account of the second defendant by the third defendant, spoke volume of the alleged gratification.
He argued that the Justice Ademola could have instructed that money be paid into his wife’s account rather than payed directly into his account.
“No one wakes up in the morning to pay money into another one’s account without any intention”, he added.
As for the issue of conspiracy, which his client said was not recognised in law, Jegede maintained that it is recognised in law and it is handled in law as a matter of inference.
On Ben Gubert and Bassey Bassey, who admitted sending the N30m to the Ademolas, the counsel stated that the letters brought by the two were dubious, written at complete variance from the questions they were asked by the investigator.
“While Gubert stated that he sent $50,000, the defendant said it was $100,000. That was the reason they have case to answer.
On the gift of a car, he insisted it was given to the son on behalf of the father, all aimed at inducing the first defendant.
He maintained that the money remains a gratification until proven otherwise.
The Judge at this point adjourned till April 5 for ruling.