The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, fixed March 31 for judgement in the $9.8 million money laundering case filed against Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ahmed Mohammed, the trial judge, fixed the judgement date, after the prosecuting counsel, Farouk Abdullah, and the defence lawyer, Ahmed Raji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, adopted their final written addresses on Tuesday.
Acting on a tip-off, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had, in 2017, raided the residence of the ex-NNPC boss in Kaduna State and found $9,772, 800 and £74, 000 in a safe.
Mr Yakubu was subsequently arraigned on March 16, 2017, on six counts of money laundering and other offences.
But the trial court, after the prosecution rested its case, struck out two of the counts on May 16, 2019.
On April 24, 2020, the Court of Appeal, in Abuja, where an appeal regarding the decision of the trial court was lodged, also struck out two additional counts, and asked the defendant to defend only the two remaining counts – Counts 3 and 4.
The two counts have to do with the defendant’s failure to make full disclosure of assets to EFCC upon his arrest, receiving cash without going through a financial institution in alleged violation of Section 1(1) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the Act.
Mr Yakubu has denied the charges in his testimony while testifying for himself as a defence witness in the case, claiming that the money seized from him was an accumulation of gifts he received at different times after leaving office.
Defence’s final address
In his final submission on Monday, the defence lawyer, Mr Raji, recalled that his client had explained his own side of the story regarding the two remaining charges as directed by the Court of Appeal in a judgement delivered on April 24, 2020.
He noted that EFCC made several attempts to reintroduce fresh evidence which were turned down by the court.
“I urge my lord to hold that he has met the prescription by Court of Appeal,” he said.
Asking for an order acquitting his client, Mr Raji prayed the court to direct the federal government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or any agency, to release the money seized from the defendant “having satisfied his side of the story going by Paragraph 3.1 of our Reply on Points of Law.”
But the prosecuting counsel, Mr Abdullah, opposed Mr Raji’s request.
He urged the court to hold that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt and accordingly find Mr Yakubu guilty as charged.
He argued that the application titled, ‘Defendant’s Reply on Points of Law’, was certainly not a reply on points of law “but an attempt to re-argue his case”.
“We urge my lord to so hold and discountenance the document,” he said.
On Mr Raji’s application asking the court to direct the federal government to release the seized money kept in CBN’s custody, he said there was an interim order by a sister court presided over by Zainab Abubakar, forfeiting the said sum to the federal government of Nigeria.
“The said order was challenged before Justice Abubakar and it was refused.
“The defendant, not satisfied with the ruling of the court, went to appeal.
“Expectedly, the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the trial court.
“My lord, essentially, we submit that this is not the forum to make the application to release this money. We urge the court to so hold,” he argued.
Mr Abdullah, however, said if the court, in its judgment, ruled against the EFCC, “the defendant may then wish to proceed to the appropriate court to make his application for the release of the money.”
But Mr Raji disagreed with Mr Abdullah, saying “the reply on points of law is not in any way an attempt to reintroduce argument.”
According to him, they are proper points of law raised, especially when the complainant did not refer to any portion constituting a repetition of arguments already canvassed in the written address.
“Finally, I submit that all his (Abdullah’s) arguments on appropriate forum, are unknown to law for the following reasons:
“One, the money is an exhibit before this court, so it is an appropriate forum. The only court with dominion over that money is this court.
“Two, the interim order referred to is to abide by the final outcome of this case. Otherwise why interim, why not permanent?” Mr Raji added.
The defence filed and served its final addresses on November 18, 2021.
EFCC filed its own on the defence on December 10.
Upon receiving the prosecution’s final written address, the defence filed a
a reply on point of law dated December 21, 2021.
The judge, after listening to the parties, fixed March 31 for judgement.
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