The prosecution had accused the defendants of laundering the sum of $700 million while Haruna Momoh held sway at the PPMC between 2011 and 2015. They further alleged that Mr. Momoh through his wife’s firms laundered another sum of N249 million.
Before the judgment, the prosecution led by Osuobeni Akponimisingha, called seven witnesses and tendered several documents to prove its case against the defendants.
However, delivering judgment in the suit yesterday, Justice Taiwo remarked that in a criminal case, it was the duty of the prosecution to prove the allegations of crime, adding that where there was a doubt, the court must resolve the issue in favour of the defendants.
According to the judge, the case of the prosecution was unreliable because it was built on mere speculation and conjecture.
Justice Taiwo stated that the prosecution failed to prove that the transaction leading to the deposits of the monies in the accounts of the 5th defendants were from illegal activities.
The judge stressed that the prosecution ought to have even check whether the contract was executed by the defendants in the first place before making allegations
According to the judge, evidence before it showed that the N249 million was payment made to the 5th defendant for the contract it carried out for the PPMC.
In addition, the court held that the prosecution failed to prove that the 5th defendant was given undue advantage over other companies that bided for the contract, or was not qualified to be awarded the contract.
The judge stressed that the prosecution ought to have even check whether the contract was executed by the defendants in the first place before making allegations.
The judge noted that witnesses called by the prosecution stated that they did not have reason to suspect the monies from Mrs. Momoh because of the nature of her business (poultry), adding that all transactions were done in line with the guidelines of the Central Bank of Nigeria and other financial regulators.
Similarly, on the allegation that the second defendant refused to honour plaintiff’s invitation in respect of the suit, the court held that it is untenable in law for the prosecution to have made such invitation orally.
“The case of the prosecution is weak and unreliable”, the judge said.
“Consequently the prosecution haven failed to prove the allegations the defendants are hereby discharged and acquitted from all the 22 criminal count charge”, Justice Taiwo added.
Following request by Mr. Ade Adedeji, SAN, counsel to the 1st, 5th and 6th defendants, the judge ordered the immediate unfreezing of the accounts of Blaid Construction and Blaid Farms belonging to Mrs. Momoh.
The interim order of forfeiture was made by Justice Inyang Ekwo pending the determination of the criminal case.
Recall that Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court had in a judgment delivered on July 4, 2019, ordered the ICPC to vacate attachments placed on the assets of Mrs. Momoh and ordered them to also erase all inscription such as, “keep off, under investigation by ICPC.”
The judge held that, “where there is no prosecution for 12 months all seized property should be released to the owners.”
Speaking with journalists shortly after the judgment, Mrs. Momoh’s lawyer, commended the court for ensuring that justice was served at the end of the day.
“After four years, indeed more than that, justice has been served with what happened today. Our client has been discharged and acquitted on all the 22 count charge which were fabricated, which were not proved, which were conjectures.
“We thank the court, we thank the judiciary for their thoroughness, for their hard work, for their painstaking efforts to see that indeed justice was served,” he said.
Adedeji, however, urged the prosecution to always do their job diligently and ensure that they commence prosecution only when they have real facts and are convinced that they have a case against anyone.
Justice Taiwo observed that the court in July 2019, had earlier ruled through Hon Justice BFM Nyako that investigations by any government agency should not and cannot be in perpetuity. And the view of the court remains the same in this matter. Therefore, the matter should be put to rest at this point.”
(i) Front page of “BusinessDay” newspaper of June 8, 2022
Headline: Influx of arms encouraging piracy in the Gulf of Guinea – Agwai
“Martin Luther Agwai, Nigeria’s former chief of defence staff, says the influx of small arms and light weapons has heightened piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Piracy has become increasingly sophisticated with the influx of small arms and light weapons in the hands of pirates and criminals on waterways and high on seas, he said on Tuesday, in Abuja.
Agwai was speaking at the launch of a Counter Piracy and Response project in the Gulf of Guinea.
The launch was organised by the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre (MLAILPKC) in collaboration with the UNDP.
Agwai is the chairman, board of trustee of MLAILPKC. He noted that the maritime domain had remarked a critical route for human interactions and trade and brought about human interconnectivity and relationships between nations.
According to him, in contemporary times, sea interactions have brought about global economic prosperity and increased the relationship between nations and cultures.
“The maritime domain accounts for the movement of most global goods and services through different sea passages like the China Sea, the Strait of Singapore, the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea, among others.
“Some of these sea passages have, however, continued to experience hijacks, kidnappings, robbery and piracy,” he said.
Agwai said also that reported cases of piracy and other maritime crimes in the Gulf Guinea had continued to threaten the ease of moving goods and services.
He added that incessant pirate attacks had also resulted in increased maritime insurance costs, higher prices of goods and merchandise, including oil and gas resources.
There had also been the growth of regional illegal markets in clandestine goods and services, he noted.
According to him, costs associated with piracy and other crimes are ultimately passed on and borne by final consumers.
“The Gulf of Guinea which extends from Senegal in the west to Angola in the South remains a very critical socio-economic nexus between the Americas, Middle East and Asia.
“I cannot but state that the launching of the project would herald the Centre as a regional hub for Anti-Piracy Training toward mitigating the negative impacts of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.