SUBSIDY SCAM –
Court acquits Integrated Oil, Mgt of conspiracy, bribery charges
An Apapa Magistrate Court in Lagos has discharged and acquitted an oil marketing company, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited and its top management staff of the allegations of conspiracy and bribery of members of the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede-led Presidential Committee on Fuel Subsidy Verification Committee on August 20, 2012.
Integrated Oil and Gas and its top management staff, including the Managing Director, Mr. Anthony Ihenacho; Assistant General Manager, Supply, Mr. Humphery Okoh; and Financial Controller, Mr. Akinwusi Julius, were arraigned before the court for allegedly bribing members of the Presidential Committee on Fuel Subsidy Verification Committee who were at the oil marketing company in Apapa, Lagos, to investigate its involvement in fuel subsidy scam.
The bribe was alleged to influence committee’s decision in favour of the company.
The oil firm is owned by a former Minister of Interior, Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho.
In his judgment, the Presiding Magistrate, Mr. Martins Owumi, held that since the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case against the defendants, the only option left for him, as a way of doing justice to the case, is to discharge and acquit the defendants.
Consequently, Owumi upheld the no-case submission entered by the defendants.
He submitted that it had been decided in several of cases that in criminal cases, the prosecution has the mandatory burden to prove its case against an accused person beyond reasonable doubt by calling credible and material witnesses to prove all the elements of an offence.
He noted that failure to do so would mean that prosecution has failed to prove its case and the defendant would be discharged and acquitted.
The Magistrate asserted that it was also trite that the prosecution can only prove its case beyond reasonable doubt if it satisfactorily proved all the elements of the offence against an accused person, positing failure to do so would mean that the charge would fail.
He held that from the proceedings, it was obvious that the prosecution was speculating as none of its evidence supported the charge.
The Magistrate noted that for the prosecution to secure a conviction, its findings must be supported with concrete and real evidence and not speculation.
He quoted the case of Isah vs State in 2007, where the Court of Appeal held that a criminal court must not base its evidence before the court on speculation to buttress his assertion, adding that, otherwise, it would amount to miscarriage of justice.
Owunmi stated that from the case before the court, there were missing links between the offences made against the defendants as the prosecution could not argue its case with credible evidence and elements of the offences.
The Magistrate’s judgment stated inter alia: “Failure to prove the elements of the charges in this case is failure in all elements listed above. In establishing a causal link between the defendants and the offence charged, no aspect of the enquiry should be left to assumption, speculation of conjecture.
“As stated above, the prosecution failed to prove the elements of the offences of conspiracy, offering of gratification to a public officer and receiving of gratification. I holdthat the said lapses of the prosecution are in favour of the defendants and that the defendants cannot be called upon to enter into their defence based on the watery and speculative evidence of the prosecution.
“One question would be can a reasonable man in the circumstances and from the evidence before this court come to a just conclusion that there was conspiracy when the names of the persons at large were not mentioned in the charge for conspiracy? How then did the police carryout investigation to find out that there was a meeting of minds to carry out an unlawful purpose when the other persons were not seen or names mentioned? The prosecution witness 1, prosecution witness 2, fifth and sixth defendants never complained that they were given gratification.
“I know that the circumstantial evidence to be relied upon and believed in justifying the inference of the guilt of the defendants the facts before the court must be incompatible with the innocence of the defendants. The evidence must be cogent and compelling to convince a jury of the guilt of the accused and must also lead irresistibly to the guilt of the defendants and inconsistent to any other rational conclusion to it. There must be no other co-existing circumstances which can waken such inference.”