The Court of Appeal on Tuesday ordered Murtala Nyako, a former governor of Adamawa State, to open his defence in his ongoing trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Okon Abang, the trial judge, had on July 19, 2021, ordered dismissed the no-case submission filed by Mr Nyako after the prosecution closed their case.
The judge then ordered him and his co-defendants to open their case, dismissed their claims that the evidence led by the prosecution did not link them to the money laundering charges.
Unsatisfied with Mr Abang’s decision, Mr Nyako filed an appeal against it.
In the case, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Mr Nyako, his son, Abdul-Aziz Nyako, two companies, Sebore Farms and Extension Ltd and Pagado Fortunes Ltd, with money laundering.
Other defendants are Zulkifik Abba, Abubakar Aliyu, Blue Opal Ltd, Tower Assets Management Ltd and Crust Energy Ltd.
Court of Appeal’s judgement
Delivering judgment on Mr Nyako’s appeal on Tuesday, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja led by Olabisi Ige, held that the trial court’s decision was right.
Mr Ige held that the trial court was right in ordering the defendants to enter their defence to answer questions in respect of the allegations levelled against them by the prosecution.
The other panel members unanimously agreed that it was necessary for the appellants to exonerate themselves from the allegations linking them to the commission of the alleged offences.
“Non-arraignment of others mentioned during the trial does not vitiate the charge as presented by the defendants.
“Appellant’s appeal is devoid of merit and the lower court was right in over ruling the no-case-submission filed by the appellant.
“The appellants are hereby ordered to enter their defence as ordered by Justice Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja,” Mr Ige held.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC on July 7,2015 filed the charges against the former governor and the other defendants.
The EFCC arraigned the defendants on a 37-count charge of criminal conspiracy, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N29 billion.
To prove its case at the Federal High Court Abuja, the EFCC called 21 witnesses upon whose oral and documentary evidence the court agreed that the prosecution has made a prima facie case against the defendants.
The defendants had filed a no-case submission after the prosecution finished calling its witnesses, urging the court to dismiss the charges against them on the grounds that the prosecution failed to link them to the alleged crimes.
But the court, in its ruling on July 19, 2021, dismissed the no-case submission and urged them to enter their defence.
The judge, who said he had “painstakingly scrutinised the evidence of the 21 witnesses and massive documentary evidence” that were tendered by the prosecution, found no merit in Mr Nyako and his co-defendants no-case-submission.
Mr Abang noted that extrajudicial statements of the Zenith Bank Plc manager in Yola (Adamawa State capital) and Abdulmalik Dalhatu were admitted in evidence, a ruling of the court that defendants did not appeal against.
“In this ruling, it is my humble but firm view that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the defendants, and they are required to enter their defence immediately,” the court held.
“The no-case-submission filed by the defendants lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” Mr Abang said.
In their appeal against the decision, Mr Nyako and his co-defendants argued that the essential elements of offences against them were not proved by the prosecution.
More so, the appellants posited that there was no proof of theft, nor was there any evidence adduced by the prosecution to prove its case or linking them to commission of the offence levelled against them.
It was their argument that “Not a single witness called by the prosecution implicated the appellants.”
The Court of Appeal dismissed the arguments in its judgement on Tuesday.
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