Federal High Court in Abuja, Thursday, ordered Robert Aziboala, cousin to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to respond to two out of the nine-count charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The court, however, dismissed the charge against wife, Mrs Stella Aziboala,
Trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, in discharging Stella, in respect of counts 2 and 3, held that, “Just because Azibola is a spouse of the 2nd defendant, is not enough to charge her. Criminal liability is personal; it is not vicarious”.
The EFCC had in 2016, preferred a 7-count charge against Aziboala, his wife, Stella and their company, One Plus Holding Ltd, over an allegation that they received $40m contract from the embattled former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (retd).
The prosecution closed its case, after calling 10 witnesses.
But the defendants, responding through their counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), filed a no-case-submission, insisting that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima-facie case that would warrant them to enter defence.
Justice Dimgba ruling on the no-case-submission, Thursday, held that Aziboala (1st defendant) and his company, One Plus Holding Ltd (3rd defendant) have explanation to make in respect of counts 2 and 3 and subsequently ordered them to respond to the charges.
In count 2 and 3, Robert Aziboala and his company, One Plus Holding Ltd were accused of being in possession and conversion of the sum of $40m received from Office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki into personal use.
The court thus ordered that he opened his defence in two out of the 9 count charge.
The defendants claimed that the $40m released from the Office of the former NSA to Aziboala and One Plus Holding Ltd was meant for the procurement of tactical communication kits.
But the court held that: “By the exhibits, the sum of $40m was sent to the 3rd defendant purportedly for the supply of tactical communication kits for Special Forces on the instruction of Col Dasuki.
“But there was no evidence that any such thing was supplied even though there were some suggestions in exhibits that the sum was for some other security assignments.
“In the absence of any evidence for the supply of the tactical communication kits, the consideration for the transfer of the $40m needs to be established.
“I do not therefore believe that the no-case-submission should succeed in relation to these counts.
“However, appraising the evidence adduced in respect of count two and three, I am of the view that the evidence can only support a prima facie case against the 1st and 3rd defendants.
“On the whole, there is sufficient prima-facie case made out by the prosecution against the 1st and 3rd defendants. The no-case-submission in respect of these two counts is refused.”
Justice Dimgba, however, absolved Robert and his company of any wrongdoing in counts 1,4,5,6,7,8, and 9.
In dismissing count one, the court noted that the allegation relates to offence of money laundering involving the sum of $40m transfered to the domiciliary account of One Plus Ltd from the ONSA account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“This count relates to offence of conspiracy which needs to be established by the presence of an agreement among the 1st and 2nd defendants and one Amaobi Ovum to commit an illegal act as stated in the charge of the laundering of the sum of $40m obtained from the account of the office of the NSA” the court held.
“Reviewng the evidence adduced, I see nothing to presume the offence of conspiracy. That being the case, Amaobi Ovum who served as a staff of Zenith Bank when the 3rd defendant opened an account, if as I found, the only relationship Amaobi had with the defendant was only a bank relationship link.
“I therefore do not see any evidence of conspiracy to launder any sum of $40m with Amaobi Ovum who is not a defendant in the charge.
“If at all any conspiracy to launder funds existed, such a conspiracy would have been between Amaobi and the former NSA Sambo Dasuki, who in any event is not charged as a defendant in the charge.
“And if there is no credible third party, I hold that the offence of conspiracy must fail entirely given that it is legally impossible for the 1st and 2nd defendants to be found guilty of conspiracy on their own.
“In the eyes of the law, they are regarded as one and therefore legally disabled from committing conspiracy.
“All this considered, I hold that there is no prima facie case made to warrant the defendants putting up a defence in count one. I therefore, accordingly acquit and discharge the 1st and 2nd defendants of this count”, the court held.
On counts four to nine, the court noted that, “All three witnesses PW3 to PW5, were witnesses brought by the prosecution to substantiate count seven, their testimonies collectively assessed did not raise any real case against the defendants to warrant them being asked to open their defence.
“It is clear from the evidence that in the light of all the above, I hold that the no-case-submission of the defendants succeeds in part and fails in part” Dimgba posited.
“I uphold the no case submission in counts one, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine, and hereby discharge and acquit all the defendants in relation to these counts” the court ordered.
“However, I dismiss the no-case- submission of the 1st and 3rd defendants in relation to count 2 and 3, and hereby direct the 1st and 3rd defendants to open their defence.
“The 2nd defendant, Mrs. Azibola Roberts is hereby discharged and acquitted of all the nine counts in the charge,” Dimgba summed.
The matter has been adjourned till June 4, for Robert to open his defence.