A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court has discharged and acquitted the immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, of the N4.2billion fraud charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Judge, Rilwan Aikawa, held that the anti graft agency failed to establish any prima facie case against Mr Usoro that would warrant him to enter a defence.
The judge made the decision while ruling on Mr Usoro’s “no case” submission.
He noted that the penal code, under which the NBA chieftain was charged, is not applicable to southern states, that is, Lagos and Akwa-Ibom, which were said to be the locations of the alleged offences.
“On the whole, I hold that the prosecution has failed to establish any prima facie case.
“Accordingly, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted,” Mr Aikawa held.
The defendant had on February 25, filed a no-case submission where his counsel Effiong O. Effiong argued that the EFCC called only two witnesses and closed its case. The lawyer said the reason for the handful of witness was because the commission didn’t have any case against the defendants.
He prayed the court to allow the no-case submission.
But the prosecution opposed his prayer and prayed the court to dismiss the no-case submission, citing the “overwhelming evidence” it said it had adduced and exhibits admitted in evidence.
It also asked the court to order the defendant to enter his defence.
The EFCC had on February 18 closed its case after calling two witnesses.
The agency arraigned Mr Usoro on December 18, 2018 before Justice Muslim Hassan on a 10-count charge.
He pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
He was later re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa on a charge marked FHC/418c/18, which alleged that he committed the offence on May 14, 2016.
He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity
In his testimony before the court, an EFCC investigating officer Abdulrahman Arabo said that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, hired Mr Usoro who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him at the Election Tribunal where his victory was being challenged in 2015.
The EFFC witness also testified that the sum of N1.4 billion legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.
Mr Usoro denied the allegations.