A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has struck out the corruption charges brought against six person and a company before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for lack of diligent prosecution.
The court, presided over by Justice M. A. Onyetenu also discharged and acquitted the six for the fraud allegations.
The EFCC had in 2018 arraigned Alimi Haruna, Momouda Mohammed, Shittu Muideen, Akpojaro Amos, Joga Yusuf, Duru Patrick and a company over charges of conspiracy, money laundering and unlawfully retaining proceeds of illicit act, among others.
However, the prosecuting counsel has failed to show up after several adjournments, his last appearance in court was on November 6, 2018.
Onyetenu had on several occasions given the prosecuting counsel opportunity to appear before the court and even directed that Hearing Notice be served on the prosecution but he failed to show up.
Counsel for the first defendant, Oviemuno Obobolo, said his client, Haruna, in his capacity as the Managing Director of Mowa BDC Ltd, a licensed Bureau De Change (BDC) operator, made a transaction through his company in which he sold dollars to another BDC operator, BOK BDC Ltd headed by Okey Onyeneke to help provide enough funds for a client.
"He sold to this BOK BDC Ltd by bank transfer and cash. Interestingly, Mr. Okey confirmed in writing to both the police and EFCC that he received the money from Haruna and duly received value for the transaction.
“That should have been enough. But we understand that somewhere along the line, the actual owner of the money didn't get the money from the other dealers in the chain of the transaction and so reported to the police and EFCC," he said.
Obobolo also stated that the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) were initially involved in the matter. They invited his client for a chat, and after a review of the facts, he was cleared.
"The Xsquad Unit under the Lagos Commissioner of Police also invited him and he was again cleared. He was subsequently invited to the EFCC and also cleared in August, 2017 following a confirmation by the other BDC colleague who bought dollars from his company that they actually received value for the exchange.
“The Investigating team at that time was led by one Mr. Kaltungo, but subsequently there was a change of leadership of the team and Mrs Deborah Oni became the Team Leader. He was invited again by the EFCC under the new team lead and a curious demand was placed on him to surrender the naira paid to his company in exchange for the dollars without a reciprocal refund of the dollars.
“The implications of this demand would mean that his company which legitimately sold dollars as BDC operator to a fellow operator would lose its funds, the money received in exchange for the dollars sold.
"The actual people who perpetuated the fraud, that is, those who ran away with the actual owners’ monies were never arraigned in court. But the BDC operators who sold the dollars were the ones arraigned because the EFCC said they should return the money they sold for a legitimate transaction which they refused. My client was detained for over two months, he and other BDC operators were charged to court for fraud without any evidence to back it up.”
Speaking further he said, “Expectedly, after filing the charge, EFCC practically abandoned it. They were arraigned and granted bail in November 2018. And from that time till when the case was eventually struck out on February 16, 2021, more than two years later, the agency never showed up in court for once. Even when the court bent over backwards to serve them hearing notice, they did not show up.
"It was clear that the EFCC took the case to court just to abandon it. For two years, my client and others who were charged suffered unjustly.
"Eventually, as God would have it, the court had enough and the case was struck out, my client and other defendants were accordingly discharged. This is because the allegations of fraud against them had no basis in the first place which was why they abandoned the case in court."