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Alleged N1.4bn fraud: Court acquits, discharges immediate past NBA President

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State has acquitted and discharged the immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN).

Usoro had been standing trial on 10 counts of fraud and money laundering made against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He had pleaded not guilty to the offence and made a no-case submission insisting that the anti-graft agency had made no case against him to warrant him to enter a defence.

In his decision on the no-case submission today, trial judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that the anti-graft agency failed to establish any prima facie case against Usoro.

Justice Aikawa noted that the penal code, under which the former NBA President was charged, is not applicable to the southern states of Lagos and Akwa-Ibom, which were said to be the locations of the alleged offences.

“On the whole, I hold that the prosecution has failed to establish any prima facie case.

“Accordingly, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted,” Justice Aikawa held.

The EFCC had arraigned Usoro on December 18, 2018, before Justice Muslim Hassan on 10 counts, all of which he pleaded not guilty to.

He was subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa on charges which alleged that he committed the offence on May 14, 2016.

He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which the court says he ought to have known was part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity

In his testimony before the court, an EFCC investigating officer Abdulrahman Arabo, said that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, hired Usoro who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him at the Election Tribunal where his victory was being challenged in 2015.

The EFFC witness also testified that the sum of N1.4 billion legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.

Usoro vigorously denied the allegations.

On February 25, the former NBA President had filed a no case submission where his counsel, Effiong O. Effiong SAN submitted that the EFCC called only two witnesses and closed its case because, according to him, it knew it didn’t have any case against the defendants.

He asked the court to allow the no-case submission.

But the EFCC opposed his application and asked the court to dismiss the no-case submission, citing the “overwhelming evidence” it said it had adduced and exhibits admitted in evidence.

It also asked the court to order the defendant to enter his defence.

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