The Federal High Court in Lagos has discharged and acquitted a former governor of Oyo State, Chief Rashidi Ladoja, of the N4.7bn fraud charges pressed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2008.
Delivering judgement in the 11-year-old trial on Friday, Justice Mohammed Idris said the evidence brought to court against Ladoja and Waheed Akanbi, a former Oyo State Commissioner for Finance, was “too low on credible evidence.”
The judge said the EFCC failed to call relevant witnesses that could have helped it to prove its case, adding that the six witnesses it called gave inconsistent and contradictory testimonies.
The judge said most of the documents which the EFCC tendered in support of its case were lacking in probative value since relevant witnesses were not called to speak to them.
He noted also that the prosecution was inconsistent with the amount of money it claimed that the defendants diverted and laundered.
Justice Idris described the handling of Ladoja’s case by the prosecutor, Mr Olabisi Olufemi from the law firm of Festus Keyamo, as an example of how a criminal case should not be handled.
Describing the prosecution of Ladoja and Akanbi as unjust, Justice Idris said he found that if anyone was to be prosecuted for the alleged fraud, it should have been the persons whom the EFCC fielded as prosecution witnesses two, three and four.
The judge said, “There is a thin line between success and failure; that thin line is called credible evidence. The case of the prosecution is too low on credible evidence. For this reason, I agree with the 1st defendant when he stated that to sustain the 11 counts, the prosecution called six witnesses, three of whom, being PW2, PW3 and PW4, are participles criminis, who adduced material evidence.
“The court, therefore, warns itself of the danger of believing the evidence of PW2, PW3, and PW4, who are participles criminis, without collaboration of same by an independent witness.”
The judge said there was no way government would succeed in its anti-corruption fight, where real offenders were shielded as in Ladoja’s case.
He said, “This country cannot sustain the fight against corruption in the manner in which this case has been prosecuted, where those that should be proper defendants in the case were shielded away from prosecution. This is injustice and this court will not partake in an injustice.”
“Prosecutors must be committed to promoting a justice system founded on fairness, equity, compassion,” he added.
Justice Idris said as the prosecution failed to prove any of the 11 counts against Ladoja and Akanbi, he was unable to convict them as requested by the EFCC.
Reacting to the judgment, Ladoja said, “I’m grateful to God. It shows that the judge actually understood the issue. What interests me about the judgement was the fact that the judge made some fundamental observations. That if you want to fight corruption in Nigeria, the prosecution should work better.
“He pointed out that the people who were supposed to be charged were shielded from prosecution. Which means that they were only looking for big names; they wanted to prosecute Ladoja because he was a former governor; whereas the people who stole the money were there, shielded by the prosecution.”
The former governor said the 11-year trial took a toll on him.
“11-year-old trial, it has taken a toll on me. But I only hope that this will be a lesson to the prosecution.”
Buhari’s Desperation to Win Caused Election Postponement, Says CUPP
The Coalition of United Political Parties has claimed that the desperation of President Muhammadu Buhari and his men to win the presidential election, by all means, was responsible for the last minute postponement of the election.
The coalition’s spokesman, Imo Ugochinyere, made the allegation in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja on Saturday morning.
He said, “In their bid to once again foist an unpopular government on Nigerians, they threw caution to the winds and started setting electoral materials on fire in states that are well known to be strongholds of opposition.
“These acts of sabotage, no doubt, ruined the preparations of the Independent National Electoral Commission for the elections.
“We have raised the alarm many times that agents of the government were working hard to ensure that elections are not held or are declared inconclusive in areas they know that the All Progressives Congress will never win. We have been vindicated.
We blame the international embarrassment this last minute postponement has caused the nation on the President, the desperate leaders of his party, APC, and the nation’s security agencies who failed woefully in their duties to protect electoral materials and INEC offices from attacks by these enemies of the nation.”
Ugochinyere added that with the postponement, “President Buhari’s judgement day with the people has just been shifted.”
He, however, said the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, displayed courage by shifting the election.
He said the postponement averted what he could have resulted to “national bloodshed because we are aware that APC wanted to proceed with election after compromising distribution and destroying materials in over 15 states.”
PDP Asks INEC Chairman to Resign, Accuses APC of ‘Grand Conspiracy’
Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has asked Mahmood Yakubu to resign as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Speaking through Ike Abonyi, his media aide, shortly after the elections were postponed by INEC, Secondus said his party was rejecting the new dates.
He said it was a “deliberate, pre-determined agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari to cling on to power even when it’s obvious to him that Nigerians want him out”.
Secondus said the postponement was part of a “grand design” by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to thwart the will of Nigerians “at all cost”.
He said the APC “in connivance with INEC have been trying all options including but not limited to burning down INEC offices in some states and destroying of electoral materials to create artificial problems upon which to stand for their dubious act”.
“With several of their rigging options failing, they have to force INEC to agree to a shift in the election or a staggered election with flimsy excuses pre-manufactured for the purpose,” he said in the statement sent to TheCable.
“For the avoidance of doubt the PDP sees this action as wicked and we are also aware of other dubious designs like the deployment of hooded security operatives who would be ruthless on the people ostensibly to scare them away.”
Secondus said the “wicked killing” of over 60 persons mostly women and children in southern Kaduna on the eve of election “is a copious ploy by the APC to frighten the people away from voting knowing too well that they were not going to record any vote from the area”.
“Recall that the Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai had earlier threatened international election observers of going to their country in body bags and with the fatal violence in the state on the eve of election, it’s clear what the motives are, to frighten the observers from the state so that he can carry out his nefarious acts,” he said.
The PDP chairman also drew the attention to the statement of President Muhammadu Buhari that nobody can unseat him from office as an indication of what he wanted to do.
I Haven’t Fled Nigeria —Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday said he has not fled Nigeria, contrary to a social media report that he had travelled out of the county ahead of the presidential election scheduled for Saturday.
Obasanjo spoke with newsmen at his Presidential Library, Abeokuta, describing the Social media post as “fake news.”
The former president was reacting to a Facebook post of one Gbenga Lawal who posted: “Breaking: Obasanjo jets out of Nigeria. He can’t even wait for the thief he is imposing on Nigerians.”
In his reaction, Obasanjo said “Why should I travel out of the country before the election?
“If not for anything, I believe I should be here to perform my civic responsibility, which is to vote according to the dictate of my heart tomorrow and on the second of March.
“Those who are carrying that type of rumour or fake news; I leave them in the hands of God; I am used to that kind of thing.
“In Yoruba land, if your head is hard, you don’t have to worry yourself.
“Let anybody tell lies against you, let anybody issue fake news against you, let anybody abuse you, God will deal with them rightly and appropriately.”
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