A High Court had ruled that the EFCC was trying the wrong persons for the crime.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has stated that it will not appeal a court ruling that freed seven people accused of involvement in an alleged N787 million fraud at the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
A Federal High Court in Abuja had on September 19 discharged and acquitted the seven persons accused of a N787 million fraud at UBEC. The court ruled that the charges by the commission could not stand.
Justice Adamu Bello also ruled that “evidence produced by prosecution were not credible.”
“No reasonable tribunal will convict on such evidence,” he said.
The anti-graft agency had initially decided to appeal the judgement.
However, in a “Notice of Withdrawal of Appeal’ filed on October 25, the Chief Legal officer of the EFCC, Sylvanus Tahir, stated the commission’s decision not to appeal the ruling.
“TAKE NOTICE that the Appellant herein intends and doth hereby wholly withdraws its appeal dated and filed on the 23rd September, 2013; against all the Respondents in the above mentioned appeal,” Mr. Tahir told the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
The accused persons were first arraigned on May 18, 2009 on a 64-count charge that bordered on fraudulent inducement, criminal conspiracy and subversion of due processes in the award of the contract.
The anti-graft agency was prosecuting four UBEC directors; the Managing Director, Inter-market USA, Alexander Cozma; Inter-market USA LLC; and Inter-market Nigeria for allegedly fraudulently manipulating a government contract. The contract was given to Inter-market, USA LLC, and Mr. Cozma allegedly in order to defraud the Nigerian government.
The four freed UBEC directors are a former Executive Secretary of the agency, Bridget Sokan; Molkat Mutfwang; Andrew Ekpunobi; and Michael Aule.
The contract awarded to Inter-market USA was for the importation of plastic chairs and desks for schools with funds released by Education Trust Fund (ETF) before the federal government ban of importation of furniture into the country, which the accused claimed stalled delivery of the materials since 2004. Evidence before the court showed that Mr. Cozma in a proposal had asked that the chairs and desks be produced in Osogbo, Nigeria; which the UBEC board refused.
The accused were granted bail by the court. Subsequent to the grant of bail, the court’s attention was drawn to an amended charge brought by the prosecution dated July 13, 2009 as a necessity for the arraignment of two more accused persons.
On May 12, 2010, 23 out of the 64 charges filed by the EFCC were struck out by the court due to lack of evidence to prove the essential elements.
The court further affirmed its jurisdiction over the remaining 41 charges, adjourning the case to November, 29 and 30 for trial following court vacation.
The trial commenced on the said date, with a total of 75 exhibits as the seven accused persons made a ‘no case to answer submission to the court.”
In his final judgement on the case, Mr. Bello admitted that a crime had been committed in the award of contract, but stated that the wrong people were being prosecuted.
“Finally, I am not by this ruling suggesting that no wrong doing was established by the prosecution. Surely the evidence adduced points to one direction and that is the direction of the board of UBEC. They are the ones who awarded the contract beyond their approval limit as stated by PW1… they are therefore the ones who should have been charged to because they take responsibility for their action, and not the accused persons,” Mr. Bello said
When contacted, the EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, explained that the commission was still reviewing the court’s decision and would take it up after the review; an indication that the then board of UBEC might still be prosecuted based on the judge’s suggestion.
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