Court Clears Oronsaye of Corruption Charges

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• EFCC to appeal case dismissal
Alex Enumah and Paul Obi in Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Maitama, Abuja, on Tuesday discharged and acquitted the former Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Chief Steven  Oronsaye, of all the seven-count charge filed against him by the federal government.

 Justice Olasumbo Goodluck discharged the defendant in a ruling she delivered on the no-case submission filed by the former HoSF.

Oronsaye was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly diverting the sum of N190million for personal use, when he was the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force set up by administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

He was alleged to have contravened the provision of Section 311 of the Penal Code, punishable under Section 315 of the same Code.

 In proving its case, the prosecution called six witnesses who alleged complicity of the former HoSF.
But following the closure of the prosecution’s case on November 15, 2016, the defendant filed a no-case submission on December 9, 2016, declaring that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie against him that would warrant him to open his defence.

 Arguing the no-case motion on March 2, the lead counsel to  Oronsaye, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), argued that the evidence adduced before the court against the defendant failed to link him with the alleged crimes.
Agabi pointed out that there were omissions of essential elements in the charges against his client and said on that account, the charges were imperfect and failed.

 He said the prosecution had initially filed a two-count charge against the defendant, only for it to later on May 19, 2016, amend it to seven, declaring that that was a sign that something was wrong with the charge from the beginning.

 The counsel to the defendant further argued that the prosecution failed to either specify the amount that was entrusted to Oronsaye or the mandate of the committee the defendant chaired, adding that there was no evidence of personal use of the fund that the defendant was accused of but mere allegations.

  In his response, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Offem Uket, told the court that the prosecution had proved its case with reasonable doubt that the defendant should enter his defence.

 Uket argued that it was not right to bring up the issue of imperfection of charges now that it was against the provisions in Sections 220 and 221 of Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act, 2015.
According to him, the prosecution had been able to prove a prima facie case against Oronsaye. He therefore, urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission.

 Ruling on the matter, Justice Goodluck noted that the no-case submission filed by the defendant raised issues on colouration of preliminary objection.
According to her, a party could challenge the competence of jurisdiction of the court at any time but with the ACJ Act, could not be entertained at the interlocutory stage.

 The judge stated that though there was copious evidence from some of the witnesses called by the prosecution that Oronsaye collected money from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) which was entrusted to him, she was unable to hold that he converted same to his personal use.

 She added that there was no evidence laid before the court regarding the funds collected from CBN and ONSA being used for his personal benefit.
However, the EFCC last night said it would appeal the ruling by Justice Goodluck.

The EFCC Head of Media and Information, Wilson Uwujaren, said trial judge erred in his ruling and would approach the appeal court to set aside the ruling.
“The commission believes the trial judge erred in his ruling and will approach the appeal court to set aside the ruling,” Uwujaren said.