From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja has dismissed fraud charges brought against a United Kingdom based Nigerian medical doctor, Reuben Olu Obaro and his wife Mrs Ayodele Obaro, a UK based nurse.
Justice A. O. Ebong, who dismissed the eight-count charge against the renowned medical doctor held that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) acted in bad faith in filing the charge.
Delivering ruling in a no-case submission argued by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, J. N. Egwuonwu on behalf of the couple, Justice Ebong held that the eight count charges were unfounded and could not be established against the defendants as required by law.
The ICPC had arraigned the couple before the court on allegations that N186m out of the sum of N450 million seed grant given to them by the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (Sure-P) in aid of an hospital project was misappropriated.
The money was granted for the construction and purchase of equipment for the Stephen James Stroke Centre of Excellence in the Gudu District of the FCT, Abuja.
However, after calling five witnesses, and tendering several documents, the anti-graft agency closed its case prompting the defendants to file a no-case submission.
In the ruling Justice Ebong held that the ICPC failed woefully to prove ingredients of conspiracy, misappropriation and given false information charges against the two medical personnel beyond reasonable doubt.
The judge held that the conspiracy charge against Mrs Obaro and the Stephen James Stroke Centre cannot stand in the face of the law because the hospital is an artificial body that has no mind of its own and as such cannot conspire with human being to commit fraud.
Contrary to the claim of ICPC that the seed grant was strictly for the hospital project, the judge, who faulted the line of investigation of ICPC held that no document or any of its witnesses established the allegation.
Justice Ebong also dismissed an allegation that Mrs Obaro purchased a Prado Jeep from the seed grant, adding that the bank statement tendered by ICPC showed that the couple had personal funds in the said bank account and as such the ICPC cannot safely hold that the vehicle was purchased from the seed grant.
In all, the court held that the evidence of the five witnesses of the ICPC were so unreliable that no reasonable court of law can convict anybody.
Justice Ebong therefore discharged and acquitted the defendants from the eight count charges on the grounds that prima facie case was not made against them to warrant their being called upon to make any defence.
“I find no evidence to support the eight count charges against the defendants and I pronounced them not guilty of the charges but I like to say that it does not appear that there was any reasonable grounds to have filed the charges against the defendants.
“The petition by one Musa Dankano which led to the charge made no complain against the defendants but against staff of Sure-P Secretariat, adding that there is also no report from any government agency indicting the defendants for mismanaging the grant.
“This sort of dubious and frivolous attack on the character and reputation of renowned persons like the defendants cannot help the federal government to get deserved foreign investors it is yearning for.
“Our investigators and prosecuting agencies should have a rethink on how they go about exercising their power so as not to inflict injuries on the citizens through malicious damage