The Federal Government has insisted that it has established a prima facie case of gratification against Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, his wife, Olabowale and Joe Agi (SAN), just as it urged the court to throw out a no-case submission they filed before the court.
The defendants are standing trial before Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
Meanwhile, the court has reserved ruling on the no case-submission to April 5, 2017.
They are being prosecuted for alleged conspiracy, gratification and illegal possession of fire arms.
After the prosecution closed its case on February 21, the defendants filed a no-case-submission, stating that there was no need for them to enter defence.
Arguing the motion yesterday, at the resumed hearing, counsel to the defendants represented by Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), (Justice Ademola); Robert Clark (SAN) for Ademola’s wife and Jeph Ejinkonye, counsel to Agi (SAN), told the court that since the prosecution has failed to establish a primae facie case to warrant their clients to enter their defence, the court should uphold the no-case-submission and strike out the suit.
In his submission, Ikpeazu maintained that the prosecution did not provide any evidence before the court to sustain the 11-count charge.
On the count bordering on acceptance of gratification, the counsel argued that the evidence of Prosecution Witness (PW) 16 – Babatunde Adepoju, an operative of the Department of State Services (DSS), had adequately proved that the money in question was not a bribe.
The counsel said the witness who investigated 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 urged the court to hold that there was nothing on which any of the defendants could be called upon to enter defence and added that gratification should not be seen in 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 N30 million 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 the 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 noted.
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 defense 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.
In his argument, counsel to Mrs Ademola, Chief Robert Clerk (SAN), noted that his client was charged with conspiracy, an offense 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 offense. 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.
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. Ademide had told the witness 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 N30 million 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 defense 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.
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 N30million payment and the first defendant, Jegede noted that a witness had already admitted that there was a lodgement of N30million by Joe Agi. For him, it was allegedly three per cent of the N3.2billion 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 N10million 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 N30million to the Ademola’s, 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.
(Source: The Sun)