The Court of Appeal, meeting in Ibadan on Thursday, removed and acquitted former Oyo State Governor Adebayo Alao–Akala on more than N11.5 billion corruption charges brought against him by the Economic Crimes Commission and Financial, EFCC.
Mr. Alao-Akala was fired and acquitted along with a former Senate Whip deputy Senator Hosea Agboola and a business magnate, Femi Babalola.
The Nigerian News Agency reports that Mr. Agboola is currently the Chairman of the Advisory Council of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
He served as Commissioner for Local Government Affairs and Headquarters during the Alao-Akala administration from 2007 to 2011, while Mr. Babalola owns Pentagon Engineering Services, the engineering company that executed some contracts during the period.
The litigation, which began 11 years ago, was concluded by a three-person panel, chaired by Judge Jimi Bada, with Judges Abba Muhammed and Abdulazeez Waziri as members.
The magistrates, in their unanimous trial, annulled the sentence of the lower court.
The magistrates maintained that the trial court made a mistake in ordering the defendants to defend themselves against the three charges because the prosecution, led by the EFCC, failed to establish a prima facie case against them.
While Mr. Bada read the Alao-Akala judgment, Messrs. Muhammed and Waziri read the judgments of Messrs. Babalola and Agboola respectively.
However, EFCC lawyer Benedict Ubi refused to speak to journalists after the trial.
In his own reaction, Messrs. Alao-Akala and Babalola’s lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, represented by Abiodun Ogunjinmi, described the sentence as “beautiful”.
“We really appreciate and thank God for giving us such a beautiful judgment today.
“The judges did a wonderful job. This case started in 2012, about 11 years ago, but ended well today.
“The appellant, Alao-Akala and Babalola were finally released and acquitted,” Ogunjimi said.
Messrs. Alao-Akala and Babalola, in their reactions, also congratulated the judiciary on the ruling.
“I have always trusted the judiciary as the last hope of the common man like me.
“So, we thank God for everything. God has fixed everything, so let’s forget how many years the case took, “said the former governor.
NAN recalls that Alao-Akala and the other two were indicted before an Oyo State Superior Court, sitting in Ibadan in 2012 by EFCC on a charge of 11 counts, bordering on N11.5 billion fraud.
The charges included conspiracy, award of a contract without budgetary provision, obtaining by falsehood, acquisition of property with money derived from illicit acts and concealment of ownership of said property, among others.
The EFCC’s lawyer had told the lower court that when Alao-Akala was governor, he awarded a road contract worth Naira 8.5 billion between 2007 and 2009 to Babalola’s company, Pentagon Engineering Services.
Ubi also alleged that the firm handled the contract on behalf of the 33 local government areas of the state without budgetary provision.
He said the former governor ordered the supply of drilling machines on behalf of the 33 local government areas at a cost of N3.5 billion.
The attorney also said that Mr. Alao-Akala conspired with Mr. Ayoola to withdraw N2.9 billion from the joint account of the state and local government.
Furthermore, he told the court that the former governor illegally acquired property on Old Bodija Road, Off Rotimi Williams Road in Ibadan, when he was governor.
The EFCC’s attorney stated that the alleged offenses were in violation of section 22 (4) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Act and section 1 (18) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act.
The three defendants, however, filed a caseless presentation after EFCC closed their case in court.
The trial court, chaired by Judge Muniru Owolabi, dropped eight of the 11 charges against Alao-Akala and the other two.
Mr. Owolabi then ordered Mr. Alao-Akala to go to defense for the remaining three counts, which border on conspiracy, obtaining money through false pretense, and awarding a contract without budget provision.
However, he dismissed the former governor of the charges of acquiring a property with money derived from an illegal act and concealing the ownership of said property.
The judge said that the witnesses called by the prosecutor did not link the evidence to the acquired property, adding that the EFCC was also unable to prove genuine ownership of the property.
Not satisfied with the judgment of the lower court, Mr. Alao-Akala and the other two defendants turned to the Court of Appeal.
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