By Uche Amunike
A Federal High Court in Abuja, Thursday, discharged and acquitted the former Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Group Managing Director (GMD), Yakubu Andrew of the $9.8m fraud charges levelled against him by the Federal Government.
The position of the court is that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, put Yakubu on trial for five years but were unable to establish or prove that he accepted the money over and above the limit allowed by law.
In his judgement, Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed ruled that the foreign currency seized from the NNPC GMD, Yakubu in 2017 and kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), be returned to him immediately.
He further ruled that the evidence of the witnesses provided by the EFCC created room for doubt, which lawfully, must be resolved in favour of the defendant.
The court’s judgement also stipulated that the prosecution failed to produce the necessary ingredients of the charges to warrant convicting the former NNPC GMD, Yakubu.
Justice Mohammed maintained that the evidence provided by the defendant, Yakubu, as to how he acquired the money, was both credible and reliable, adding that the prosecution failed to contradict the evidence as required by law.
He reiterated that the EFCC should have investigated the claims made by Yakubu that the money came as gifts from his friends, but it was unfortunate that they didn’t, for reasons best known to them.
Hear him: ‘To worsen the situation, the prosecution assumed that the money was received in one fell swoop as against the evidence of the defendant that he got the money in piecemeal as gifts from his friends when he retired from service in 2014.’
‘It is a huge error that the prosecution did not tender the money as exhibit throughout the trial but made futile efforts after it had closed its case,’ the judge maintained.
‘In all, the defendant’s evidence cast a huge doubt on that of the EFCC and the doubt must be resolved in his favour,’ the judge concluded.
While dismissing the EFCC’s arguments about the funds being proceeds of crime, as they were not passed through any financial institution, Judge Mohammed concurred with Yakubu’s defence that the funds were received as gifts in aggregate form and not ‘in one fell swoop’ according to the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2011.
He ordered the immediate return of the confiscated $9,772,800 and another £74,000 to the embattled NNPC GMD, Yakubu.
Recall that in 2017, the EFCC after getting a tip-off, stormed Yakubu’s residence in Kaduna state and found $9,772,800 and £74,000 in a safe, which they confiscated. Shortly after, they arraigned him on a six-count charge for ‘failure to make full disclosure of assets, receiving cash without going through a financial institution, which borders on money laundering’.
In 2018, his counsel Ahmed Raji (SAN) filed a no-case submission, arguing that the evidence presented in court did not ‘establish a case against him and so, the charges should be dismissed’.
The court of appeal struck out counts 5 and 6 and ordered him to defend himself on counts 3 and 4 which bordered on failure to make full disclose of his assets, receive cash without going through a financial institution and intent to avoid a lawful transaction in alleged violation of section 1(1) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 and punishable under section 16(2)b of the Act.