By Bartholomew Madukwe
Respite has come the way of a Businesswoman, Mrs Clara Otoki, as an Igbosere Magistrate Court, Lagos, discharged and acquitted her over allegation of stealing N650 million, being proceeds realized from the sale of property of Nojovo Farms and Fisheries Company Limited without remitting same to the company.
Chief Magistrate, Mrs O.O. Oshin, upheld a no case submission made by the defence counsel, Mr Ladipo Johnson, pursuant to Section 286 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Lagos State (Cap. C18) 2003.
The Magistrate held that, from all the evidence before me, there were no facts established in the claim that the defendant allegedly took or converted either to her own use or to the use of any other person the sum N650 million belonging to the Company.
She said: “The prosecution has failed to establish how they arrived at the N650 million and even the PW 1 and PW 3 did confirm that they did not use any valuer or auditor in reaching or arriving at what I can only just refer to as an imaginary amount.
“From the evidence before ( the court) both oral and documentary, the prosecution has been unable to establish a prima facie case of the amount allegedly charged to have been stolen by the defendant. The prosecution is under a duty to prove that the exact amount N650 million in the charge was stolen by the defendant and this they have failed to do.”
On the prosecution’s evidence, Magistrate Oshin held that it has been so discredited as a result of cross-examination, saying “and is also manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal can safely convict the defendant.”
Concluding her ruling with the remarks of Nikki Tobi, Magistrate Oshin reads: “The Nigerian polity, more than any one known to me, is one of suspicion and suspects. It is one society where the slightest aberrant conducted of an individual, however mala fide, is construed with all suspicion and so much malice read into it. Suspicion is the hobby of the average Nigerian. He does not only vegetate on it, he enjoys it, particularly if the end result of that suspicion is to damage or destroy the character of another person.”
Aligning herself with Justice Tobi’s position, the Magistrate ruled; “I uphold the defendant’s No Case Submission and accordingly the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted.”
During trial, the prosecution called three witnesses. The first prosecution witness (PW1) had informed the court that the defendant is her late father, Chief Babashola Rhodes SAN, half-sister.
Abiola Babalola (PW1) told the court that her late father incorporated Novojo Farms and Fisheries with which he purchased land from the Lagos State Government, land measuring 5 hectares.