Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos, on Friday, discharged and acquitted a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN), of the N1.4billion money laundering alleged preferred against him by the Economicand Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Aikawa cleared Usoro of the allegation while ruling on a no-case submission he filed against the 10-count charge of money laundering for some Akwa-Ibom State government officials.
The judge held that the EFCC failed to establish any prima facie case against Usoro that will warrant him to enter a defence.
The court stated that the penal code, under which the NBA chieftain was charged, is not applicable to southern states, like Lagos and Akwa-Ibom, where the EFCC claimed the alleged offences were committed.
Justice Aikawa held that, “On the whole, I hold that the prosecution has failed to establish any prima facie case. Accordingly, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted.”
The anti-graft agency had claimed that Usoro converted and laundered the money in connivance with the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel.
The commission had also alleged in the charge that the former NBA president in connivance with others mentioned in the charge, conspired among themselves to commit the offence sometime in 2015.
The EFCC insisted that the offence is contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same law.
He, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
After the anti-graft agency closed its case on February 18, 2021, Usoro filed a no-case submission, arguing that the EFCC called only two witnesses and closed its case because their case was very weak.
The defendant, therefore, urged the court to allow the no-case submission.
But the prosecution opposed the application, 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.
In his testimony before the court, an EFCC investigator, Abdulrahman Arabo, said that the Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, hired Usoro, who in turn, invited other SANs to join him at the Election Petitions Tribunal where his victory was being challenged in 2015.
The EFCC 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.