- Ask judge to dismiss charges against them
Suspended judge of the Federal high court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, his wife, Olabowale and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joe Agi facing an 18-count charge of engagement in collection and offering of gratification and illegal possession of firearms on Wednesday requested a High Court of the Federal Capital territory (FCT) to dismiss the case against them.
They are contending that the Federal Government prosecuting them has not made out a prima facie case against them.
Arguing their no-case submission Wednesday, all of them said in view of their position, there was no need for them to enter any defence since there was no case against them.
Bar and Bench Watch reports that the prosecution, led by Segun Jegede, had closed its case on February 21 this year after calling16 witnesses and tendering some documents as exhibits.
Rather than conduct their defence, the defendants chose to make a no-case submission.
Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) lead a battery of lawyers representing Justice Ademola in the case was the first to move his application of no case submission.
He said: “We urge my lord to respectfully hold that the prosecution did not establish prima facie case to warrant the first defendant (Justice Ademola) to enter his defence.”
He noted that the testimony of the prosecution’s main witness – an operative of the Department of State Service (DSS), Babatunde Adepoju – who investigated the case, revealed that the N30m paid by Agi into Justice Ademola’s wife’s account could not have been meant for gratification to induce the judge.
Ikpeazu said by the provision of Section 17(1)(b) of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, under which the defendants were charged for the offence of gratification, the prosecution was required to prove that the N30m and the car, were not just “gifts or considerations,” but that they constituted “an inducement or reward” for a particular act of the judge.
He added: “As far as this case is concerned, the prosecution has not made out a case that the N30m was received in order to influence the first defendant. There is no link. As far as there is no link, there is no reason why the first defendant should proceed to enter his defence.”
Ikpeazu said the same principle applied to the N8.5m car which Agi was said to have bought for the judge’s son.
He argued that the charges relating to illegal possession of firearms could not stand in the light of the licences for the two guns, which were recovered from Justice Ademola’s house during the DSS raid, having been tendered.
Ikpeazu said since the testimony of PW16 indicating that the two licences covering years 2016 to 2018 were “current” and the failure of the prosecution to call Justice Mohammed as a witness, there was no further explanation left to be made by Justice Ademola and so he (Justice Ademola) could not be held liable for being in illegal possession of firearms.
Lead counsel to the judge’s wife, Robert Clarke (SAN) argued that the prosecution failed to produce any evidence before the court to prove that the N30 million was given to Mrs. Ademola to influence Justice Ademola’s judicial functions.
“No iota of evidence was brought before your lordship to show that the money was meant for inducement.
“The investigative officer (PW16) said he never investigated the second defendant.
“He said what drew his attention was the money transferred by the third defendant (Agi) to the second defendant (Olubowale).
“As far as that Count 2 is concerned, nothing has been brought before your lordship to warrant us to give an answer.
“ In her statement, she said she used the money to pay for the event of her daughter’s wedding.
“They (the prosecution) have not laid any evidence of fraud or corruption to warrant us to answer. She (Olubowale) said in her statement that she had never transferred any money to the first defendant,” Clarke said.
Agi’s lawyer, Jeph Njikonye argued that the counts against his client were incompetent.
He said, “There are two essential ingredients for there to be a valid charge (of gratification) under section 17(1)(b) of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act. The first element is that the person charged agrees to give or offers to give a gift – that is a mandatory element.
“The second element is that such gift must be a reward for doing or fore-bearing to do something. For there to be a valid charge, these essential elements must be present in a charge,” he said.
Jegede argued that the Supreme Court has held that a prima facie case must be distinguished from prove of guilt.
He said all that is needed at this stage of the trial is for a link to be established between the evidence led and the charge filed against the defendants.
Jegede said Agi, in his extra-judicial statement, showed that he told Justice Ademola about the N30 million and was instructed to pay the money into Mrs. Ademola’s account. He said that was the link necessary for a prima facie case to be established.
The prosecution lawyer said even though there was no evidence to show that Mrs. Ademola transferred the money to Justice Ademola, the money was jointly used for their daughter’s wedding.
He added that Agi was entitled to 20% ($620 million) of the $3.2 billion garnishee order given by Justice Ademola around the period he paid the N30 million into the account of Mrs. Ademola.
Jegede said: “There are lots of issues and questions the defendants have to answer making the no-case submissions to be such that should not be granted.”
The prosecution lawyer said the expired firearms license found in the judge’s house was still in the custody of the DSS, and could not have been a renewed copy, but an entirely new one that was tendered through PW16.
Jegede argued that to prove the offence of illegal possession of firearm, the prosecution only had to show that the accused was found in possession of the firearm and that the accused has no valid license to possess the firearm.
He urged the court to dismiss the no-case submissions.
Justice Jude Okeke adjourned to April 5 for ruling.