The trial of cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Robert Azibaola, on Wednesday, inched closer to conclusion as he closed defence in the alleged $40m fraud case preferred against him by the federal government.
Azibaola’s counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), told Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court, Abuja, after he led the second and last defence witness in evidence, that the defendants have closed their case.
Uche said: “The defence has officially closed its case, having called two witnesses in the matter”.
Recall, the prosecution had earlier closed its case after calling 10 witnesses and tendering 27 documented evidences against the defendants.
With the close of case yesterday, both the prosecution and defence counsel will on the next adjourned date present their written addresses before the judge would fix a date for judgment.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, Wednesday, the witness, Iyerifama Jaja, said his group, comprising of 13 members was paid N5m from One-Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, as compensation from the Federal Government.
The witness, who said he signed for the money he collected told the court that, he was into oil bunkering, with other ‘boys’ before he was introduced to One-Plus, through one Mr. Wellington, and was asked to leave the line of business for a compensation of N5m.
The witness said after the compensation was paid, “all of us that were involved in the oil bunkering business in the riverine coast of Rivers and Akwa Ibom areas of the Niger Delta region abandoned the business and left the creeks till today.”
Axiboala had told the court that the $40m he received from the detained former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), was judiciously used for the purpose for which it was paid.
Under cross examination by the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, Azibaola confessed to collecting the money from the office of the NSA, but denied that the money was converted to personal use.
He said the money was for special assignment meant to assuage the security risk in the Niger Delta region of the country at that time and it was used for that.
Azibaola and his wife were first charged in 2016 alongside their company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited on a nine-count criminal charge.
However, the court in 2018 struck out seven out of the nine-count criminal charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, preferred against them.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, also discharged and acquitted Aziboala’s wife, Stella, of all allegations levelled against her in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/ 113/2016.
Justice Dimgba said he was satisfied that going by the proof of evidence the anti-graft agency adduced before the court, the 1st defendant, Aziboala and his firm, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, had no case to answer with respect to the seven-count charge that was struck out.
However, the court, ordered Azibaola and his firm to open their defence in counts two and three of the charge which border on allegation that they received $40m contract from Dasuki,
Azibaola stated that payment to the beneficiaries was negotiated according to the capacity of each of the beneficiaries.
Justice Dimgba adjourned the matter till February 28, 2019.