A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court has discharged and acquitted Warimapo-Owei Dudafa, a former special adviser to ex-president, Goodluck Jonathan, of an alleged N1.6 billion fraud.
Mohammed Idris, the judge, said the prosecution, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) failed to conduct a proper and in-depth investigation before charging Mr Dudafa.
Mr Dufada and a banker, Joseph Iwuejo, had been charged on a 22 count charge by the EFCC in 2016 for alleged money laundering.
While delivering his judgment on Thursday, Mr Idris said the failure of the EFCC to call material and essential witnesses in the case made it appear as if the commission was withholding evidence.
“Criminal allegations, by the strict dictates of our law, is proved and decided upon proof beyond reasonable doubt. Suspicions and conjectures have no place at all in our criminal jurisprudence,” the judge said.
“It is clear upon the facts before this court that the prosecution failed to have this case conclusively investigated before opting to bring this charge against the defendants, apparently on suspicion and conjectures.
“In other words, the prosecution traded in-depth and conclusive investigation of an alleged crime for suspicions and conjectures in arraigning the defendants before this court for the offences alleged.
“Let me reemphasise that although the general rule is that the prosecution is not under a burden to call a particular witness or any number of witnesses, the prosecution, however, has the duty to call material witness, that is, a witness whose evidence would decide the case one way or the other.”
The judge said the failure of the EFCC to call witnesses such as Somprei Omiebi; Sambo Dasuki, the then National Security Adviser; S. A. Salisu, the then Director of Finance and Administration at the office of the NSA; and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria or his representative did little to help the prosecution’s case.
According to the judge, that was not just a failure to call a witness but a failure to call material and essential witnesses whose evidence would surely have helped to resolve the issues as to the true ownership and transactions in the various company accounts, and the true source of the alleged sums involved In the transactions contained in this charge.
“I am of the view that the failure of the prosecution to call the said witnesses amounted to the prosecution withhoIding evidence. See STATE VS. AJIE (2000) FWLR (FY. 16) 2831. This proved fatal to the entire case and destroyed its bedrock. In totality, I cannot find my way clear in finding these defendants guilty of the offences alleged,” said Mr Idris.
“Having reviewed all that has been provided by the prosecution and the defence In aid of their respective cases, In terms of oral and documentary eviidence, and having reviewed same, I am inclined to resolve the singular issue for determination in favour of the Defendants herein.”
“Reasonable doubts exist in the prosecution’s case, and I do resolve these doubts in favour of the Defendants. In other wovds, the Prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the ingredients of the offences to which the 1st and 2nd Defendants were charged.”
“Let me state for the avoidance of doubt that we are all committed to the fight against corruption, however, the judiciary can only perform its role in this fight in accordance with laid down laws, rules and regulations.”
The judge said investigations by a prosecution must not only be carried out but must be properly undertaken.
“The investigations must be comprehensive, thorough, in-depth, decisive, definite, determinate and above all conclusive. In this case, the investigation was clearly inconclusive. A lot of gaps were left unfilled. That is unacceptable,” he continued.
“The prosecution tried its best, but it could not fill up the gaps created as a result of an unresolved investigation.
“I did not find anything that suggests that a criminal offence as charged has been committed. The prosecution has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that these are proceeds of unlawful activities.
“I also say “suspicions” because the presence of Somprie Omiebi, M.S Dasuki the then National Security Adviser, S.A.Salisu the then director finance and Admin, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria or his representative, amongst others, would have cleared a lot of the issues raised in this case.”
“The concept of reasonable doubt does not all0w suspicion (however strong) to take the place of legal proof.”
“Again, the court cannot act on suspicions, indeed, suspicion is no evidence. Items of evidence raising suspicions which put together have no quality of being corroborative evidence In the true sense cannot ground a conviction.”