…….as court adjourns for judgment
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—-The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, fixed May 27 to deliver judgment in the money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against Robert Azibaola, a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Azibaola is facing a two-count charge the anti-graft agency preferred against him and his company, One Plus Holdings Nigeria Limited, following an allegation that he received $40million from the detained former National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki, retd, without any contract agreement.
The prosecution had on January 23, 2017, closed its case against the defendants after it produced ten witnesses that testified before the court.
In his defence, Azibaola, who denied any wrong doing, testified before the court, even as he produced another witness, Mr. Iyeryfama Jaja, who narrated the circumstance that led to the release of the fund by the Office of the NSA.
The defendants, through their lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, closed their case on February 6.
At the resumed proceeding on Thursday, both the defence and the prosecution lawyer, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, adopted their final briefs of argument.
Trial Justice Nnamdi Dimgba subsequently adjourned the matter for judgement.
EFCC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/ 113/2016, alleged that Aziboala had while being the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) and a signatory to the Zenith Bank account of One Plus Holdings Nig Ltd, on or about September 8, 2014, took possession and converted the $39, 999, 958 out of the $40million, and transferred same to the domiciliary account of One Plus Holdings Nig Ltd with Zenith Bank Plc Account No. 5070365750.
The agency told the court that the 40m was released from an account the Office of the National Security Adviser operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, upon a transfer mandate Ref. No. 128/S.5LX/139, on the guise that it was meant for the supply of Tactical Communication Kits for Special Forces.
It maintained that the defendants reasonably ought to have known that the fund was part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity by Dasuki, adding that they had by their action, committed an offence contrary to section 15(2), (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act.
The court had on March 29, 2018, struck out seven out of an initial nine-count charge the EFCC preferred against Aziboala, his wife, Stella, and their firm.
The court discharged and acquitted Aziboala’s wife on the premise that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie criminal charge against her.
Meantime, in his defence, Aziboala, maintained that the money which was okayed by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was deployed to solve oil bunkering and pipeline destruction in the Niger Delta region.
He told the court that the federal government, perturbed by the level of oil bunkering and the vandalization of oil facilities in the region, which he said drastically disrupted oil output and reduced the nation’s cash inflows, engaged his firm to implement strategies he said brought such economic sabotage to an end.
He said the “assignment” that was handed to him through the ONSA, was discreetly executed, insisting that it achieved the desired result.
Justice Dimgba had earlier granted the defendant bail to the tune of N500m with a surety in the like sum.