Stop Criminalising Commercial Disputes; Court Warns Anti-Graft Agencies


A businessman, Bashir Saleh, was discharged and acquitted of the offence of conspiracy to steal and conspiracy to obtain money by false pretence by the High Court of Lagos State.

The Defendant, who had been in custody since 2019, was discharged and acquitted alongside the 2nd Defendant, Abdullahi Hassan, by the Honourable Court on the 19th of October, 2022.

The Prosecution counsel, Bilikisu Buhari Esq., had argued amongst other things that the Defendants collected the sum of N17,350,000 (Seventeen Million, Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) from the nominal complainant for the purpose of transporting 100,000 litres of petroleum products but failed to deliver the products to the nominal complainants. The prosecution called three witnesses, and from the evidence of the witnesses, it was established that the 1st Defendant has had several transactions with the nominal complainant, which was, in fact, successful.

The 1st Defendant testified for himself and stated before the court that he works as a Deport Representative for a licensed company that deals in haulage of petroleum products. He stated that he has had several transactions with the nominal complainant, which were successful. He stated further that a major part of the monies paid by the nominal complainant was paid to the 2nd Defendant, who was the supplier of the petroleum products.

The Team Lead from DNL Partners who represented the 1st Defendant pro bono, Qudus Mumuney Esq., argued that the Prosecution failed to establish that the Defendant stole from the Defendant or obtained money from the nominal complainant under false pretence. He argued further that the transaction between the nominal complainant and the 1st Defendant was a purely commercial transaction, which the parties could have settled amicably or at best litigated in a civil court. Relying on the case of THEOPHILUS KURE v. COMMISSIONER OF POLICE (2020) LPELR-49378(SC), he argued that the case was another classical case where anti-graft agencies are invited by aggrieved parties in commercial transactions to assist in recovery of monies perceived to be due in the transaction.

The 2nd Defendant also testified for himself and confirmed to the Honourable Court that the 1st Defendant indeed sent the sum of N11,000,000 (Eleven Million Naira) to him for the supply of the petroleum products.

The Honourable Court in its Judgment held that the transaction between the nominal complainant and the Defendants was a commercial transaction. The court held further that the nominal complainant confirmed that there had been successful transactions between itself and the 1st Defendant. The 1st Defendant also proved that the monies were dispensed for the purpose of supplying the petroleum products to the nominal complainant.

The Court thereby found in favour of the Defendants that the Defendants were not guilty. The Defendants were, consequently, discharged and acquitted.

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