Friday, 30 March 2018

$40m ONSA Fraud: Court Grants Goodluck Jonathan's Cousin No-Case Submission In Part As Wife Is Acquited


Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday, March 29, 2018 sustained two of the 9-count amended charge of money laundering and criminal conspiracy preferred against Robert Azibaola, a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Azibaola was charged by the EFCC alongside his wife, Stella Azibaola and their Company, One Plus Holdings Nig. Ltd as 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively in the suit.

The defendants were alleged to have diverted $40,000,000 (Forty Million United State Dollars) purported to be for supply of Tactical Communication Kits for Special Forces which was transferred from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser with the Central Bank of Nigeria to the domiciliary account of their company, One Plus Holdings.

In a bid to establish the complicity of the defendants in the alleged offence, the anti-graft agency called 10 witnesses and tendered 27 documents before closing its case on January 23, 2017, setting the stage for the defendants to proof their innocence.

But, Chris Uche, SAN, counsel to Azibaola, in an application dated March 15, 2018 and filed March 19, 2018 urged the court to dismiss the charge in its entirety and acquit the defendants.

According to him, the evidence presented by the prosecution showed no linkage and nexus with the defendants.

He believed that the trial is more of a “political witch-hunt” and urged the court to hold that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants.
In response, counsel to the EFCC, Francis Jirbo, urged the court to discountenance the arguments by the defence saying, the prosecution had proved the essential ingredients of the offence to warrant explanations by the defendants.

He argued that the prosecution had established a prima facie case to the effect that there was a document which talked about a contract for the supply of communication kits for Special Forces and there was nothing to show that the kits were provided or supplied.
Ruling on the application today, Justice Dimgba held that “the no-case submission succeeded in part and also failed in part”.

He held that a prima facie case had been established against the 1st and 3rd defendants (Robert Azibaola and One Plus Holdings Nig Ltd, respectively) on counts 2 and 3 adding that, no prima facie case had been established to sustain the conspiracy charge in counts 1,4,5,6,7,8 and 9.

“I am of the view that there is a prima facie case against the first and third defendants on counts 2 and 3, but it would be unjust and unfair to ask the 2nd defendant to enter defence on these counts as the documents presented linked the 3rd defendant and the first defendant is the alter ego of the 3rd defendant even though it is accepted that the second defendant as co-signatory can sometimes act as the alter ego, but she is not an alter ego for all purposes”, the judge said.

He, consequently, ordered the 1st and 3rd defendant to enter their defence as a prima facie case has been established against them on counts 2 and 3, but acquitted the 2nd defendant (Stella) on all the counts.

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