Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court, his wife, Olubowale, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi, have asked a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, Abuja, where they are being jointly prosecuted, to discharge and acquit them of an alleged offence of gratification and other charges preferred against them by the Federal Government.
Arguing their respective no-case submissions before Justice Jude Okeke on Wednesday, defence lawyers said with its 16 prosecution witnesses and the documentary evidence tendered, the Federal Government was unable to prove the essential elements of the alleged offences.
The defence lawyers urged the court to uphold their clients’ no-case submissions and proceed to discharge and acquit them on the basis that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants.
But the prosecution, led by Mr. Segun Jegede, urged the court to dismiss the defendants’ respective no-case submissions and call on them to open their defence.
The prosecuting counsel insisted that a sufficient link had been established between the defendants and the alleged crimes, a development which he said called for the trio’s explanations.
Justice Jude Okeke after listening to all the parties on Wednesday, fixed April 5 for his ruling on the no-case submissions.
In the 18 counts preferred against the defendants was an allegation that on January 5, 2015, in his capacity as a public servant, Justice Ademola “corruptly received” from Agi, a BMW saloon 320i valued at N8,500,000.
The judge allegedly received the car through his son, Ademide Ademola, as gratification in the exercise of his official functions as a judge of the Federal High Court.
The prosecution also alleged in five other counts that Justice Ademola, through his wife, Olubowale, received gratification of N30m in three instalments of N10m each from Agi between March 11 and March 26, 2015.
“We urge my lord to respectfully hold that the prosecution did not establish a prima facie case to warrant the first defendant (Justice Ademola) to enter his defence,” Justice Ademola’s lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), said while opening an oral argument on Wednesday.
According to Ikpeazu, the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness, a Department of State Services operative, Mr. Babatunde Adepoju, who investigated the case against the three defendants, showed that the sum of N30m paid by Agi into Justice Ademola’s wife’s account could not have been meant for gratification to induce the judge.
The lawyer said going by the provision of section 17(1)(b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offence Act, under which the defendants were charged with gratification offences, the prosecution needed to prove that the N30m and the car were not just “gifts or considerations” but must also prove that they constituted “an inducement or reward” for a particular act of the judge.
However, the prosecuting counsel said that under section 17(1)(b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, both Ademide and Olubowale qualified as the agents of Justice Ademola.
He added that under section 53 of the law, such gifts were presumed to be a corrupt act.
“The money paid into the account of the second defendant is gratification until the contrary is proved. What is required at this stage is prima facie evidence,” he said.