A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday discharged Justice Adeniyi Ademola of all 18 count charges of fraud filed against him, his wife and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joe Agi.
Justice Ademola was among the judges who were arrested in an operation by the Department of State Services (DSS) sometime in October 2016.
The judge, his wife, Olabowale, who was a former Head of Service in Lagos State, and the Mr. Agi, were accused of diverting huge sum of money both in local and foreign currencies, possession of firearms and involvement in illegal collection of gratification.
Justice Jude Okeke who presided over the case while delivering judgement said that the prosecution failed to prove its allegation before the court with facts, consequently the court would not rely on speculations.
He added that his observation on the matter shows that it was built on high level suspicion and speculations.
He noted that the allegation of collecting gratifications should have clearly indicated the alleged gratification corruptly collected and that the reasons for such corrupt transfers were related to the alleged offence.
For example, Justice Okeke cited the alleged transfer of N10million between Ademola and Agi, he said that the prosecution failed to show clearly the official function of Mr. Ademola in respect of which the N10million was corruptly offered as gratification.
Regarding the alleged collection of a car through Mr. Ademola’s son, Justice Okeke said that the witness who had spoken in court about the purchase of the said car did not in any way indicate that Ademola’s son was acting on behalf of his father.
Also on the embezzlement of foreign, Okeke said that the witness brought to the court admitted that the judges were entitled to payments which were usually given in foreign currencies.
The witness also noted that the foreign currencies could be converted into another currency based on the particular location the judge intends to travel to.
“The prosecution witness derailed, rather than supported the allegation”, said Mr. Okeke.
As for the alleged discovery of N85 and N90million transfer by Ademola to a company, Danpaca and sons, for the purchase of a property, Okeke said that the witness who was brought to the court by the prosecution had testified that a sum of $520,000 was found in Ademola’s account.
The judge added that the witness also testified that the foreign currency was part of proceeds from the sale of properties belonging to the accused parents which were shared among himself and his siblings.
Justice Okeke also noted that Ademola’s legitimate income were not only his earnings as a judge, but also his inheritance from his grandfather who was once a Chief Justice of Nigeria and his father who was also a Justice of the Appeal Court.
“There is nothing that prevents the first defendant from benefiting from the inheritance of his father,” Justice Okeke said.
“The fact that judges are expected to live humbly does not mean that every judge is church mouse”, that cannot afford to live comfortably, he added.
Concerning the allegation of attempting to collect N25million as gratification from a defendant, Sani Teidi, while presiding over his case, Justice Okeke said that the witness who had testified in court made the allegation hopeless by failing to show a substantial evidence that Kingsley through whom the bribe was intended to have been collected was acting on behalf of Mr. Ademola.
“It is the duty of the prosecution to prove that the first defendant ‘and no one else’ attempted to collect the alleged N25 million, not an agent.
“The calls must be shown to have been made by the first defendant,” Okeke added.
Regarding the illegal possession of firearms, Justice Okeke said that Section (3) of the Robbery and Firearms Special Provision Act limits the offence to possession of firearms contrary to the provision of the act.
He said that accusation of fire arms possession without a valid licence makes the charge inconsistent with the provision of the act.
The judge further advised security agencies to ensure proper investigations on a matter was done thoroughly before proceeding to a court, adding that courts do not rely on mere speculations to condemn any defendants.