The Federal High Court in Abuja ruled on Thursday that a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Robert Azibaola, had a case to answer in respect of two charges involving $40m which he was accused of receiving fraudulently from the Office of the National Security Adviser in 2014.
The judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, ordered him and his company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, to enter their defence in respect of the two counts.
Ruling on the no-case submission filed by the defendants, Justice Dimgba, however, struck out the name of Azibaola’s wife, Stella, from the two charges.
The court upheld the no-case submission in relation to Counts 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.
In striking out the seven counts, the court ruled that there was no sufficient evidence to warrant defendants to enter their defence against the seven counts.
However, the court ruled that while the EFCC had led sufficient evidence linking Azibaola and the company to counts 2 and 3, it failed to connect the wife, Stella to the two charges.
He said, “On the strength of the evidence adduced, I see no sufficient evidence linking the 2nd defendant (Stella) to counts 2 and 3.
“I therefore accordingly discharge and acquit the 2nd defendant of counts 2 and 3. “I hold that there is sufficient prima facie case against the 1st and the 3rd defendants.
“The no case-submission on these counts fails in relation to them and I therefore accordingly direct the 1st and 3rd defendants (Azibaola and One Plus to open their defence to counts 2 and 3.”
Count 2, which is one of the two counts Azibaola and his company were ordered by the court to defend has to do with “directly taking possession or control” of the sum of USD39,999,958, which they received from the NSA office as allegedly instructed by the then NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
Count 1 which is the second count they are to defend, has to do with directly converting the said money to their personal use.
The sum of $39,999,958 was allegedly released to the defendants from the ONSA for the supply of Tactical Communication Kits for Special Forces, which they were said to have failed to supply.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had earlier on May 23, 2016, arraigned Azibaola, his wife and their company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited on seven counts of money laundering involving the sum of $40m which he received from the ONSA.
The anti-graft agency had on April 20, 2017 amended the charges increasing the number of counts to nine.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Sylvaus Tahir and Francis Jirbo, had subsequently called 10 witnesses and tendered a total of 27 documents which were admitted as exhibits.
On February 19, 2018, the three defendants, through their lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), filed a no-case submission submitting that the prosecution had failed to link them to the commission of any of the nine counts.
The EFCC had opposed the no-case submission urging the court to dismiss it.
But ruling on Thursday, Justice Dimgba upheld the no-case submission in part by upholding two of the nine counts and dismissing the rest of the seven.
In upholding count 3, Justice Dimgba dismissed the submission of the defence lawyer who argued that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges of money laundering, since the $40m, since according to the defence lawyer, came from a legitimate source, and was paid following due process.
The judge, however, said exhibit ASO1 showed that the $40m was paid to One Plus Nigeria Limited on the instruction of the ex-NSA Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.) for the supply of “Tactical Communication Kits for Special Forces.”
He noted that Exhibits ASO25 and ASO26 showed that the $40m was actually meant for “some other security assignment” but “was disguised as a contract or payment for the supply of tactical communication equipment.”
He judge noted that “there was no evidence that any such kits were supplied.”
He said, “Therefore, if Col. Dasuki with the full knowledge of the defendants gifted out the sum of USD40m to the defendants knowing full well that it was neither for the supply of any tactical equipment nor indeed for the performance of any task at all that would benefit the state.”