Court Frees Former Works Minister


A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday discharged and acquitted former Nigerian Works Minister, Hassan Lawal and a former bank official, Adesanya Adewale  from the eight count charge bothering on conspiracy and corruption to the tune of N43 million slammed on them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Lawal and Adesanya had earlier pleaded not guilty at their arraignment and thereafter brought an application of no case submission after the prosecution had closed its case.

Ruling on the no case submission, Justice Adamu Bello held that the prosecution failed to prove the essential ingredients of money laundering before the court adding that the EFCC did not present any evidence to prove that the transferred funds we’re derived from illegal and corrupt proceeds.

Dismissing the counts on conspiracy, the court held that having failed to prove that money transferred was illegally and unlawfully acquired, the court noted that the anti graft agency failed to prove that there was conspiracy between the accused persons.

He also held that the charge of conspiracy to launder money failed in its entirety stating that from the exhibits before the court, there was nothing like conspiracy.

Justice Adamu held that the 2nd accused was an official of the bank and he was at that time carrying out his official duty and that he could not be said to have conspired to launder fund meant for the execution of a contract.

“Prosecution failed to prove that the money in question was derived from illegal source, even when the accused gave the prosecution a lead that he got the money from other transactions, such as the sales of his assets, the prosecution did not bother to ask whether the transaction is real or not”.

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The court also held that since the charge was in respect of the contract awarded by the Ministry of works and housing and deposits being alleged were made before Hassan Lawal became the minister of works, it could not be said that such deposits were from illegal proceeds.

“What now remains, having failed to prove money laundering and conspiracy as preferred in the charge, the accused persons are discharged of the charge and acquitted”.

Lawal was alleged of  misappropriation of funds meant for the rehabilitation of the Guto-Bagana Bridge across River Benue while  Adewale, an ex-staff of a bank, was alleged to have assisted him to launder the money.

Counsel to Lawal, Mr. Ibrahim Ishaku SAN, had insisted that the deposits in question were genuine transactions made by his client as payment for a housing loan procured from the bank and urged the court to rule that Lawal had no case to answer as the charge did not link him directly or indirectly to the allegation.

In his reaction, the former minister noted that his problem started when he decided to dump the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, due to the absence of internal democracy in the party.

—Nnamdi Felix/Abuja

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