The Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cousin, Robert Azibaola, to defend himself in a fraud allegation of $40 million leveled against him and his company, One Plus Holding Ltd, by the federal government.
The court on Thursday ordered Mr Azibaola to defend himself on two out of the nine-count charge preferred against him by the government.
He was to defend himself on the two counts bordering on being in possession of and converting $40 million received from the office of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, to personal use.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba made the order while ruling on the no-case-submission filed by Mr Azibaola and his wife, Stella.
The court, however, discharged and acquitted Stella of all the nine-count charge leveled against her.
Mr Dimgba in discharging Stella held that being wife to Mr Azibaola was not enough to charge her with the offence since criminal liability was personal and not vicarious.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), the prosecuting agency in the matter, had in 2016 filed a 7-count charge against Mr Azibaola, Stella and their company, saying that they received $40 million worth of contract from Mr Dasuki.
They were subsequently arraigned on June 7, 2016 and were admitted to bail in the sum of N500 million each.
They were re-arraigned on April 27, 2017 this time on a 9-count amended charge.
In the cause of the trial, the prosecution called 10 witnesses and tendered 27 documented evidences against the three parties and closed its case,
Chris Uche, counsel to Mr Azibaola and his wife, however filed a no-case-submission.
Mr Uche insisted that the government had failed to establish a prima-facie case that would warrant his clients to enter a defence and prayed the court to discharge and acquit his clients.
Delivering the court’s ruling on the no-case-submission, the judge held that two of the defendants had some explanations to do with regards to counts two and three.
“It was claimed that the $40 million released from the office of the former NSA to Azibaola and One Plus Holding Ltd was meant for the procurement of tactical communication kits.
“Counts two and three are basically the same, the difference is that count two borders on possession of the sum of 40 million dollars while count three was hinged on conversion of the said amount.
“Having reviewed the oral and documentary evidence tendered by the prosecution through its witnesses, this court holds the view that there is good reason for Azibaola and the company to proceed with their defence,” the court ruled
The court noted that there was no evidence to show that the said tactical communication kits were supplied.
“In the absence of any evidence to show supply of the tactical communication kits, the 1st (Azibaola) and 3rd (One Plus Holding) defendants are in a position to explain what the fund was used for.
“On the whole, there is sufficient prima-facie case made out by the prosecution against the 1st and 3rd defendants.
“The no-case-submission in respect of these two counts is refused,” the court held.
The court absolved Mr Azibaola and his company of any wrongdoing in counts one, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine.
The judge adjourned the matter until June 4 for Mr Azibaola to open his defence.
29 March, 2018