A FCT High Court in Maitama, has dismissed the 18-count criminal charges brought by the Federal Government against Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, his wife, Mrs. Tolulope Olabowale, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi.
The three defendants were discharged and acquitted from the criminal charges on the ground that the prosecution did not prove a prima facie case against them.
Justice Jude Okeke, in a ruling on the no-case submission made by the defendants, held that the criminal charges against them were highly speculative and without iota of merit.
The judge, who reviewed the 18-counts, one after the other, said that the conspiracy charge in count one was not established against Justice Ademola, his wife and the senior lawyer, who was charged along with the couple.
Contrary to the provision of the law, Justice Okeke said that the prosecution did not in any way prove the ingredients of conspiracy against the defendants as it failed to establish where they met and conspired to commit any crime.
On the alleged N30 million gratification found in the account of Mrs. Olabowale and said to have been donated by a group of lawyers during her daughter’s wedding ceremony, the judge said that the prosecution failed woefully to establish that the donations by the lawyers was meant to influence cases before Justice Ademola, if at all there is any.
The judge said that a witness of the prosecution made it clear to the court that there was no evidence linking the donation for the marriage ceremony to influence any matter before the first defendant, hence, the judge dismissed the charge on the ground that the prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proof on it.
“From the evidence of prosecution witnesses 8 and 9, it was made categorically clear that the prosecution did not prove that the N30 million was not a donation to the 1st and 2nd defendants in the charge, hence, the charge cannot be sustained”.
“This court has no choice than to agree with the 16th prosecution witness that it would be speculative to view the N30 million as gratification,” the judge held.
The judge therefore dismissed count 3, 4 and 5, which bordered on the receipt of gratification in the charge. On the BMW car said to have been delivered to Ademide Ademola, a son of Justice Ademola, the Abuja High Court judge said that from the beginning to the end of the transaction that led to the delivery of the car, the prosecution did not establish any link to prove that Ademide Ademola negotiated in any way on behalf of the 1st defendant. Justice Okeke said that count 9 is bereft of evidence against Justice Ademola because there was no iota of evidence, both oral and written, that the vehicle in question was meant for the judge as all documentary evidence, including the invoice pointed to the fact that Ademide negotiated for the car and was even delivered to him in his house, a fact not disputed by the prosecution.
On the foreign currencies found in the house of Justice Ademola, Justice Okeke held that the prosecution failed to establish against the first defendant that he acquired the money through unlawful acts and that none of the prosecution witnesses, who testified on the charge was able to prove that the money was acquired through fraudulent means as required by law.
The judge said that the charge had to be resolved in favour of the first defendant in view of the glaring inability of the prosecution to prove a prima facie case against the defendant.
Justice Okeke also resolved the charge on unlawful possession of firearms in favor of Justice Ademola on the same ground of the failure of the prosecution to maintain the charge with any reliable evidence.
Justice Okeke said that he believed the evidence of Justice Ademola that the two guns found in his house belonged to him and another judge of the Federal High Court, A. R. Mohammed, having tendered before the court and without contradiction from the prosecution, the letters approving and releasing the two guns to them on different dates by the appropriate authority.
The judge said that he disbelieved the claim of the prosecution that the two judges have no requisite licences to operate the guns, adding that the prosecution who had initially stood its ground that there were no licences, suddenly somersaulted when the licences were tendered by the defendants and that the allegation of the prosecution was changed completely to the fact that the licences were not tendered on time.
The court held that there was no evidence that the prosecution ever demanded from the defendants to produce the licences and that when provided and admitted by the court, the allegation of the prosecution became a empty.
Apart from tendering the letters of authority releasing the gun to him, Justice Ademola went a step further to tender the operational licence for the gun, hence, the charge on the unlawful possession of firearms crumbled like the previous ones. In all, Justice Okeke said that the prosecution failed to establish prima facie case against the three defendants by the failure to provide evidence to link them with the alleged offenses and consequently dismissed the 18-count charges against the defendants, discharged and acquitted them from the alleged offenses.
It would be recalled that a no-case submission was made by the defendants, after the prosecution had closed its case against them on February 21, stressing that there was no need to enter defense.
Counsel to Justice Ademola, Onyechi Ikpeazu, at the March 15 sitting of the court, maintained that there was no evidence to further sustain the case.
On the count of acceptance of gratification, the counsel had argued that the evidence of Prosecution Witness 16, Babatunde Adepoju, who is an operative of State Security Service (SSS), had adequately proved otherwise. Ikpeazu noted that he was the witness that carried out investigation on the defendants, and he had told the court that he could not link the alleged gratification with any case handled by Justice Ademola.
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 had argued 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 monetary transfer from the accounts of second or third defendants to that of the first defendant.
Counsel to the third defendant (Agi), Jeph Ejinkonye, had 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.
The PW 16, Adepoju, had admitted that it would be mere speculation to say that the gift given to the first defendant by President Muhammadu Buhari’s lawyer was a bribe. Based on the above statement by PW 16, Ejinkonye had urged the court to uphold the no-case-submission and strike out the case. But the prosecution counsel, Segun Jegede, had opposed the no-case-submission, insisting that the defendants have enough case to answer. The counsel 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.