The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, has discharged and acquitted a former Chief of Training and Operations of the Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Olutayo Oguntoyinbo, of the offence of corruptly accepting N166m gift from a contractor with NAF.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had alleged that Oguntoyinbo while being the Chief of Training and Operations of NAF and the sole signatory to the account of Spaceweb Integrated Services with Wema Bank Plc, on July 11, 2014, corruptly accepted the N166m gift from Societe D’Equipments Internationaux Nigeria Ltd in performance of his official act.
In his judgment, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi ruled that the defendant was not guilty of the charge instituted against him, as the prosecution failed to prove the elements of the offence which was alleged to be contrary to Section 17(a) of the Corrupt Practices and other related offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 17(c) of the same Act.
The certified true copy of the judgment which was delivered on May 28, 2019, was obtained by our correspondent on Wednesday.
In the judgment, Justice Adeniyi ordered that the said sum of N166m “errorneously recovered” from Oguntoyinbo and deposited in the Office of the National Security Adviser Recovery Account, be returned to the Air Force officer through the EFCC.
He ruled, “In the final analysis, the prosecution having failed to prove all the elements of the charge against the defendant beyond reasonable doubts, the court is bound to and I hereby return a verdict of not guilty for the defendant.
“Accordingly, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted of the one count preferred against him by the prosecution.
“In consequence, I hereby order that the said N166,000,000 erroneously recovered from the defendant by the complainant and which PW1 confirmed in his testimony had been deposited in the Office of the National Security Adviser Recovery Account, be returned to the defendant forthwith through the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.”
The judge, agreed with the defendant’s lawyers – Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Mr. Adedayo Adedeji – that the EFCC failed to prove that the said gift of N166m given to the defendant by a representative of the contractor, Hima Aboubakar, was an inducement.
“By my clear understanding of the defendant’s statement, my view is that there is nothing to suggest that the said Hima Aboubakar gave the defendant the said gift of the sum of N166m either as an inducement to accord him a special or particular favour; or for doing him or for promising to do him a favour in future,” he ruled.
He added that from the evidence before the court, it “cannot be rightly inferred” based on the statement of the defendant, “that he was in any significant position of influence over the contracts that emanated from ONSA which he signed on behalf of NAF as instructed by the Chief of Air Staff which could have prompted Hima Aboubakar to seek to induce him or reward him with the said gift of the sum of N166m”.
He also ruled, “By my assessment, the contract documents, Exhibits P5 and P6 were mere formalities. They have been pre-prepared from the Office of the National Security Advoser and merely sent to the NAF for endorsement.
“It is seen that the column in the contracts for the name of the representative of the NAF has the name of the defendant written in long hand, a pre-supposing that the document was prepared beforehand.”
He said the prosecution led by Mr Francis Jirbo, failed to call as witness, Hima Aboubakar, “who could have been in a better position either to confirm or deny the statement of the defendant as to the purpose for which the said cash was given”.
The judge noted that “it would amount to mere speculation to infer or hold that the said contract documents had any bearing, correlation, or connection with the cash gift of N166m given by Hima Aboubakar to the defendant.”
He also held that it was wrong for the investigators to have demanded the defendant to refund the money to the Federal Government’s coffer “having not shown that the defendant corruptly received the money; and having not shown that SEI did not indeed execute the contract for which monies were paid to her by the Office of the National Security Adviser”.