An FCT High Court sitting at Apo has discharged the former Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Dr Mounir Gwarzo, from the offence of conferring unfair and corrupt advantage on himself.
Delivering the ruling, which came by an application for a no-case submission, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, held that the law placed a duty on the prosecution to prove the essential elements of the offence in order to make out a prima facie case.
The judge in addition said that, however, in the instant case, the prosecution failed to discharge the said duty.
The court further held that of the 14-count charge, only six counts: which were counts one, two, three, four, five and six referred to Gwarzo.
The court ruled that in respect of counts 1, 3 and 5, the prosecution failed to prove through its four witnesses that Gwarzo had a private interest in any contract, agreement or investment which emanated from SEC between 2016 and 2017.
The court also held that in respect of counts 2, 4 and 6, on the allegation that the defendant conferred an unfair and corrupt advantage on himself, the prosecution witnesses admitted, during cross-examination, that neither the defendant nor his relatives benefitted from the said contracts/awards.
The prosecution witnesses also admitted that they did not investigate the procedure for award of contracts in SEC.
The court in conclusion held that the prosecution had not made any case to warrant an invitation to the defendant to enter his defence.
He was, therefore, accordingly discharged on all six counts.
The court also in the same line discharged the second defendant, Jamila Muhammad, a principal manager with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), who was arraigned along Gwarzo on the remaining eight counts which referred solely to her.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) had preferred against a 14-count charge bordering on the offence of a public officer having a private interest in a contract, agreement or investment emanating from the office he occupies.
Part of the charge equally bordered on the offence of a public officer using his position to gratify himself and confer an unfair advantage on himself.
According to the commission, the said offence contravened the provisions of Sections 12 and 19 of the ICPC Act, 2000.
Gwarzo, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge and at the close of the prosecution’s case, he filed an application for a no-case submission rather than enter his defence.
Gwarzo, through his counsel, Tairu Adebayo, had urged the court to hold that the prosecution had not adduced any credible evidence to make the defendant enter any defence.
The no-case submission which was brought pursuant to sections 302 and 303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, stated that the prosecution had failed to make out any prima facie case against the defendant and added that the evidence adduced were all contradictory.
The defendant, along with an Executive Commissioner in SEC, Zakawanu Garuba, was discharged on a similar charge by an FCT High Court, Maitama in April 2019.
The defendant and Garuba were arraigned on a five-count charge bordering on alleged misappropriation to the tune of about N115 million and conferment of corrupt advantage on a public officer.
The said court, however, discharged and acquitted them in a ruling on a no-case submission application filed by their counsel.