25th January, 2022
By Taiye Agbaje
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, fixed March 31 for judgment in the 9.8 million dollars fraud charge filed against Andrew Yakubu, former Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Justice Ahmed Mohammed fixed the date after counsel to the EFCC, Farouk Abdullah, and the defence lawyer, Ahmed Raji, SAN, adopted their final written addresses in the matter.
When the matter was called, Raji informed that the matter was adjourned for the adoption of the final written addresses and that he was ready for the business of the day.
Abdullah too spoke in the same vein.
Adopting his application, Raji reminded that the defendant (Yakubu) was before the court pursuant to the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered in the matter on April 24, 2020, wherein it directed that the appellant (Yakubu) should come and explain his own side of his story by entering into his defence with respect to count three and four.
The anti-graft agency had, in 2017, raided the residence of the ex-NNPC boss in Kaduna and found 9,772,800 dollars and 74, 000 pounds (9.7 million dollars and 74, 000 pounds) in a safe.
Yakubu was, however, arraigned on March 16, 2017, on six counts but the trial court struck out counts one and two.
The Court of Appeal also struck out counts five and six and ordered Yakubu to defend himself on counts three and four.
Counts three and four which bordered on failure to make full disclosure of assets, receiving cash without going through a financial institution, and intent to avoid a lawful transaction in alleged violation of Section 1(1) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the Act.
Raji said against this background, the defendant testified and explained his side of the story.
He said the EFCC made several attempts to reintroduce fresh evidence which were turned down by the court.
The senior lawyer said following the court order to file a final written address, the defense on Nov. 18, 2021, filed the application and served the prosecution the same day.
“And upon being served the applicant’s final written address, the defendant (Yakubu) filed a reply on point of law dated 21st day of December 2021.
“On behalf of the defendant, I want to adopt the two addresses as our argument and urge my lord to be persuaded to discharge and acquit the defendant of the counts three and four.
“I urge my lord to hold that he has met the prescription by Court of Appeal,” he said.
Raji prayed the court to direct the Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or any agency, to release the money “in question having satisfied his side of the story going by Paragraph 3.1 of our Reply on Point of Law.”
But Abdullah opposed Raji’s request.
He said: “By the order of this honorable court that parties should filed written addresses, the defendant (Yakubu) filed an address and another document titled ‘Defendant’s Reply on Point of Law.”
The lawyer, who adopted the agency’s final written address dated December 6, 2021, and filed December 10, 2021, urged the court to hold that the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt and accordingly find Yakubu guilty as charged.
He argued that the application titled: “Defendant’s Reply on Point of Law” was certainly not a reply on point of law “but an attempt to re-argue his case.”
“We urge my lord to so hold and discountenance the document,” he said.
On Raji’s application asking the court to direct the Federal Government to release the sum of money in CBN’s custody, he said there was an interim order by a sister court presided over by Justice Zainab Abubakar, forfeiting the said sum to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The said order was challenged before Justice Abubakar and it was refused. The defendant, not satisfied with the ruling of the court, went to appeal.
“Expectedly, the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the trial court.
“My lord, essentially, we submit that this is not the forum to make the application to release this money. We urge the court to so hold,” he argued.
Abdullah, however, said if the court, in its judgment, ruled against the EFCC, “the defendant may then wish to proceed to the appropriate court to make his application for the release of the money.”
But Raji disagreed with Abdullah, saying “the reply on point of law is not in any way an attempt to reintroduced argument.”
According to him, they are proper points of law raised, especially when the complainant did not refer to any portion constituting a repetition of arguments already canvass in the written address.
“More so, he (the prosecution) has chosen to respond to all our points raised in the application so he has waved it. You can’t blow hot and cold at the same time.
“Finally, I submit that all his (Abdullah’s) arguments, on appropriate forum, are unknown to law for the following reasons:
“One, the money is an exhibit before this court, so it is an appropriate forum. The only court with dominion over that money is this court.
“Two, the interim order referred to is to abide by the final outcome of this case. Otherwise why interim, why not permanent?” Raji stated.
Justice Mohammed, who fixed March 31 for judgment, said: “Having listened to the final arguments of counsel to the prosecution and defence, this case is reserved for final judgment on March 31.”