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Friday, 7 April 2017

FOUR BLOODY DAYS FOR ANTI-CORRUPTION WAR





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Daily Trust reports
This week has been a frustrating one for the federal government anti-corruption crusade having lost four major cases within four days.
Between Monday and Thursday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) lost two cases, while its sister agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Department of State Security (DSS) lost one each.
The EFCC was the first to get the bloody nose on Monday when Justice Abdulaziz Anka of the Federal High Court in Lagos lifted the temporary forfeiture of N75 million in the account of Senior Advocate of Nigeria Mike Ozekhome.
The court had earlier granted an order for the forfeiture of the account for 120 days on the ground that the amount deposited in the said account on December 15, 2016, is suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Ozekhome is one of the lawyers of Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, who is having a legal battle with the anti-corruption agency.
Justice Anka said the EFCC’s position does not hold water, and the forfeiture he initially ordered cannot be sustained.
A day after, the ICPC also got its bitter legal fills when the former Minister of Niger Delta Godsday Orubebe was discharged and acquitted by an Abuja High Court sitting at Apo over alleged complicity in N1.97 billion contract fraud.
The trial judge Justice Olukayode Adeniyi struck out the six-count charge the ICPC preferred against the former minister.
Orubebe was charged to the court by ICPC in 2016 for N1.97 billion fraud, bothering on the diversion of funds meant for the compensation of owners of property on the Eket Urban section of the East-West road in Eket, Akwa Ibom State.
But the Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, in a letter to the chairman of ICPC, said the case of misappropriation does not exist, and further prosecution cannot be justified.
The anti-corruption agency withdrew its case against him and the former minister was therefore discharged and acquitted.
About 24 hours after Orubebe's acquittal, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, his wife Olabowale and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Joe Agi, were discharged and acquitted by FCT High Court sitting in Maitama.
Ademola was arrested alongside a number of other judges for corruption and possession of firearms by the DSS in October last year.
He was charged to court over allegation that he received $520,000 as gratification from some law firms between 2013 and 2016.
The government said it had 14 witnesses against the judge.
But in his ruling, the trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke, declared Ademola not guilty on an 18-count charge of corruption and illegal possession of firearm brought against him.
The presiding judge held that the prosecution has failed to establish any prima facie case against the defendants.
He held that count one could not stand "being in violation of S36(a) of the Constitution which states that no one shall be charged or punished for an offence not covered by the law. It is hereby struck out."
He urged the security and law enforcement agencies to always conduct watertight investigation to give credence to the ongoing fight against corruption in the country.
The federal government yesterday said it has appealed the judgement.
On the fourth consecutive days, the EFCC yet again lost another case involving former First Lady Patience Jonathan yesterday.
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, presided by Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, unfroze the former first lady's $5.8 million account in Skye Bank.
Mrs Jonathan's counsel, Adedayo Adedipe, had urged the court to unfreeze the account on the grounds that she was not a party in the suit leading to the order made by the court.
The anti-graft agency which initiated the suit leading to the order, did not file any response to the application filed to discharge the order.
In her ruling, Justice Olatoregun upheld the Adepipe's submissions and consequently, discharged the order freezing the account.
A legal practitioner, Yusuf Ali, SAN, blamed the development on the anti-corruption agencies' lack of diligent investigation leading to the arrest or invitation of a suspect.
“Investigation is the nucleus of criminal trial. If you don’t have your investigation properly it will be a disaster. It is time we begin to engage in proper investigation and not in dress rehearsal, media trial and playing to the gallery,” he said.
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