The immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro SAN has told a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State that he has no case to answer in the on going charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and consequently urged the Court to discharge and acquit him.
Mr. Usoro made the above plea in a No Case Submission which he argued today before Hon. Justice Rilwan Aikawa. Arguing his No Case Submission, Mr. Usoro, SAN who was represented by ten lawyers including four Senior Advocates, led by Chief Offiong Offiong SAN submitted that the Prosecution has not made out a prima facia case against him. He anchored his submission on four main grounds, to wit:
- The essential elements of the offence charged have not been proved
- The Prosecution’s evidence has been so completely discredited, under cross examination such that no reasonable court or tribunal would convict on it
- There is no evidence linking the Defendant with the commission of the offences with which he is charged
- A prima facie case has not been made out against the Defendant for him to be called upon to answer.
Relying on the above anchor points, the Defendant submitted that:
- The surviving charge against him have not disclosed a predicate offence known to the Akwa Ibom State Criminal code law and the Lagos State criminal law which is one of the essential elements of the offence of money laundering which the Prosecution most prove, failing which the charge would be incurably defective and incompetent.
- No evidence was adduced by the Prosecution in support of the hypothesis that the monies that were paid into Paul Usoro & Co’s account was the property of Akwa Ibom State as the Prosecution failed to established the requisite knowledge – actual or reasonably assumed on the part of the Defendant which is a prerequisite requirement under the relevant sections of the Money Laundering Act to secure a conviction.
- The evidence of the Prosecution’s witnesses were thoroughly discredited both by documentary evidence and under cross examination and proved to be manifestly unreliable such that no reasonable court would convict on same. Consequently, the Defendant argued that the Prosecution failed to make out a prima facie case against the Defendant sufficient for him to be called upon to enter his defence.
Consequent upon the above submission, the Defence counsel urged the court to uphold the No Case Submission and discharge the Defendant pursuant to Sections 302 and 303 of the ACJA.
On his part, the Prosecuting counsel K. E Uduak submitted that the court at the stage, is not called upon to determine the guilt or otherwise of the Defendant, rather to determine whether or not a prima facie case has been established within he context of the charge. He argued that the Prosecution has established a prima facia case against the Defendant and urged the Honourable Court to call upon the Defendant to “put up his defence as the case of the prosecution warrants that he offers some explanation.”
The Honourable Court upon listening to the arguments on both sides adjourned till the 10th of June, 2021 for ruling/judgement on the No Case Submission.
Recall that the EFCC had filed a 10 count charge against Mr. Usoro on allegation that he, with Governor Udom Emmnauel of Akwa Ibom State and five others (who were never made parties to the charge ) conspired to convert and did convert monies which the EFCC alleges are “property of Government of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, which sums the Defendant reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of unlawful act.
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State successfully challenged the inclusion of his name on counts 1 – 4 of the charge and same were struck out on Appeal, after the preliminary objection he filed was refused by the trial court.
Mr. Usoro’s no case submission is predicated on his believe that the EFCC did not make out a prima facie case against him.
At this stage, Lawyers await anxiously the outcome of the No Case Submission as this would afford a clearer understanding of what steps practitioners ought to take before receiving professional fees from clients, particularly if such client holds strategic position in the society.