Eleven years after legal battle, former Oyo Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala was on Thursday discharged and acquitted of corruption cases by a Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital.
The case, which borders on N11.5billion, was levelled against the ex-governor by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The appellate court also discharged and acquitted former Deputy Senate Chief Whip Hosea Agboola, who is the Chairman of Governor’s Advisory Council to Governor Seyi Makinde and a business mogul, Femi Babalola, popularly known as Jogor.
The second defendant/appellant, Agboola, served as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters when Alao-Akala was Governor between 2007 and 2011 while Babalola, owns an engineering firm, Pentagon Engineering Services, that executed some contracts during the former Governor’s tenure.
The case, which started 11 years ago, was presided over by a three-man panel led by Justice Jimi Olukayode Bada.
Justices Abba Muhammed and Abdulazeez Waziri were other members of the panel.
The three defendants/appellants were present in court during Thursday’s proceeding.
Alao-Akala, Ayoola and Babalola, had been arraigned by EFCC before an Oyo State High Court, over an alleged N11.5 billion fraud.
The 11 count s preferred against the trio include conspiracy, awarding contract without budgetary provision, obtaining by false pretence, acquiring property with money derived from illegal act and concealing the ownership of such property, among others.
Counsel for EFCC, Dr. Benedict Ubi, had told the lower court that when Alao-Akala was Governor, he awarded a road contract worth N8.5 billion between 2007 and 2009 to Pentagon Engineering Services, alleging that the firm handled the contract on behalf of the 33 local government areas without budgetary provision.
Alao-Akala, according to Ubi, ordered the supply of drilling machines on behalf of the 33 local government areas worth N3.5 billion, saying the former Governor purportedly conspired with Ayoola to withdraw N2.9 billion from Oyo State Local Government Joint Account.
Ubi also told the court that Alao-Akala illegally acquired a property at Old Bodija, Off Rotimi Williams Avenue, in Ibadan, when he was governor, saying the alleged offences contravened Section 22 (4) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and Section 1 (18) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act.
But Alao-Akala, Agboola and Babalola, filed a no-case submission after the EFCC closed its case before the high court.
However, the trial court, presided over by Justice Muniru Owolabi, struck out eight out of the 11 count-charge againsst the trio. He then ordered them to enter defence for the remaining three counts- counts 1, 2 and 5 (conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence and award of contract without budgetary provision).
Owolabi discharged the former governor on charges of acquiring property with money allegedly derived from an illegal act and concealing ownership of such property. The judge said the witnesses called by the prosecutor failed to link evidence to the acquired property, adding that EFCC also failed to prove genuine ownership of the property.
But the defendants, through their lead counsel, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), appealed the ruling of the lower court that said they had a case to answer.
Delivering judgement on the appeal on Thursday, the judges in a unanimous decision set aside the ruling of the lower court, on grounds that the trial court erred by ordering the defendants to enter defence for the three counts because the prosecution led by the EFCC failed to establish a prima facie case against them.
Justice Bada read the judgement for Alao-Akala while Justices Abba Muhammed and Abdulazeez Waziri read the judgments for Babalola and Agboola respectively.
Speaking with journalists after the judgement, the lead counsel to Alao-Akala and Babalola, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), represented by Abiodun Ogunjinmi, said: “We really appreciate and thank God Almighty for giving us a beautiful judgement today. The justices did a marvellous job. This case started in 2012, which was about 11 years ago. It came to an end today.
“It first started at the high court of justice in Ibadan. But thanks be to God that it ended well. The appellant, Alao-Akala and Babalola were all discharged and acquitted finally.”
Alao-Akala said: “We can always rely on the judiciary. They are the hope for the common man like me. So, we thank God for everything. God has settled everything, and so, let us forget about the number of years the case took.”
Babalola said: “The judiciary is the last hope of a common man like me. I thank God for today’s judgement and I give all the glory to God, irrespective of the number of years spent on the case.”
Confusion as security operatives exchange blows during Buhari’s Kaduna visit
There was confusion when security agents exchanged blows while President Muhammadu Buhari was commissioning Kawo bridge in the heart of Kaduna state, city, on Thursday.
President Buhari arrived in Kaduna State to commission projects executed by the State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
The projects are in Kafanchan, Kaduna and Zaria.
Shortly after his return from Kafacnchan, the President commissioned the Kawo bridge.
However, an altercation among security operatives attached to the President and those based in Kaduna resulted in exchange of blows.
Trouble started when some operatives of the Department of State Services blocked the road to Kawo bridge soon after the President who mounted the bridge.
Governor El-Rufai, who had earlier alighted from his vehicle, rode in the President’s convoy to the bridge.
The security agents, who barred journalists and other dignitaries from accessing Kawo bridge, blocked the road after El-Rufai and the President were on the bridge.
However, El-Rufai’s Aide-De-Camp insisted that the governor’s official vehicle must be allowed access.
Daily Trust reports that the President’s security aides stood their ground and this resulted in not just an altercation but exchange of blows.
Eventually, the governor’s vehicle was given access.
Two die, five injured as truck crushes motorcycle in Cross River
The Federal Road Safety Corps has confirmed the death of two persons in an accident in the early hours of Thursday in Nko community, Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State.
The Public Education Officer of the Corps in Cross River State, Mark Ajuka, confirmed the death of the victims in an interview.
Ajuka, a Superintendent Route Commander, told the News Agency of Nigeria that five persons were also injured in the crash that involved a truck and a motorcycle.
He said that investigation revealed that the crash was caused by a brake failure from the truck driver.
He said: “The accident occurred early this morning in Nko community, Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River.
“The deceased have been evacuated from the scene of the crash, while those injured were taken to the General Hospital in Ugep for treatment.”
An eyewitness, James Eteng, told the NAN that the tragic incident occurred at St. Pius Primary School in Nko community.
“Today is a black Thursday for us in Nko community.
“We have lost a son and a daughter in an accident that occurred this morning.
“As we speak, the whole community is in mourning mood, we can only console with the family to bear the irreparable loss.”