By Kunle Olasanmi, Abuja
Justice Olasumbo Goodluck of a High Court of Federal Capital Territory has given a clean bill of health to former Head of Service of Federation, Steve Orosanye, who is standing trial on a seven-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and diversion of N190 million brought against him by the Federal Government.
Oronsaye was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for breach of trust allegedly committed between 2013 and 2014.
He was accused by the EFCC of defrauding the Federal Government of N190 million, using his position as the then chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
He was also accused of converting the N190 million to his personal use through the investment of the fund in Access Bank Plc for a period of 90 days at 9 and 12 percent interest rates “in violation of the extant financial regulations”.
Upon the closing of the prosecution’s case, Oronsaye’s counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) told the court that EFCC’s charge ‘do not meet the requirements of law’ and that no prima facie case has been established against the defendant to warrant him to enter his defence.
In her ruling, Justice Goodluck held that the no-case submission filed by the defendant raised issues with colouration of preliminary objection.
She held that the court was precluded from taking objection on the ground of defective charges at interlocutory stages.
The judge ruled that though there was copious evidence from some of the witnesses called by prosecution that Orosanye collected money from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), which was entrusted to him, the court was unable to hold that he converted same to his personal use.
This, she submitted, was because there was no evidence laid before the court regarding the funds collected from CBN and ONSA being used for his personal benefit.
She added that the prosecution ought to have called one Sunday Odey, Personal Assistant to Orosanye and Friday Ololo, both of whom were withdrawing from the Access Bank, where he deposited the funds, to testify for it.
The judge also held that the prosecution had failed to prove the ingredients in S311 of the Penal Code to establish that the defendant was a public officer as of the time he headed the committee.
She said there was contradictory evidence by the prosecution witnesses on whether the defendant was still the Head of Service of the Federation as of the time he chaired the committee.
She held that without a case made against the defendant, he could not be called upon to answer to the charge, submitting that the burden of proof laid on the prosecution to prove not the innocence of the defendant.
“I have looked through the case and I am unable to see any justification for this case. No evidence has been laid on the allegation that he converted the fund of his committee for his personal use; no evidence has been laid that the defendant violated the extant law on financial regulation; no evidence to establish that the defendant was a public office holder.