Lawyer’s No Case Submissions On N4m Bribe Allegation To EFCC Dismissed
An Ikeja High Court has dismissed the “no case” submission of a lawyer, Taiwo Oreagba, charged with alleged corrupt demand and obtaining N4 million from one Henry Umoh under false pretence.
Dismissing the lawyer’s ‘No-Case-Submission on Friday,, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo held that the “evidence before the court raised several questions that needed clarifications from Oregba, hence the no case submission failed”.
Oreagba was arraigned for the alleged offence by the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) on November 12, 2020, before Justice Sherifat Solebo of an Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos.
She had pleaded not guilty to the two counts charge, bordering on alleged corrupt demand and obtaining the N4m by false pretence.
The defendant, who is counsel to one Kelechi Uka, currently under investigation by the EFCC, was alleged to have collected the N4m from one Henry Umoh supposedly to influence EFCC officers to secure Uka’s release.
Uka is standing trial on offences relating to stealing at the Lagos State High Court.
Following Oreagba’s not guilty plea, she was granted bail and trial commenced. However, midway to her trial, Justice Solebo recused herself from hearing the case and it was sent back to the Chief Judge for reassignment, which was subsequently reassigned to Justice Taiwo.
At the resumed hearing before the new judge, EFCC counsel, Emeka Akaogu called five witnesses, who alleged that the defendant took advantage of her position as a lawyer to make corrupt demand from Umoh that she was capable of influencing EFCC officials to give a soft landing to Uka or no charge against Uka if he was able to raise the sum if N4 million.
One of the exhibits provided by the prosecution and which was played several times in court, was an audio recording wherein a voice said the money was meant for EFCC officials.
Umoh who testified as Prosecution Witness (PW) 2 said that the money the defendant allegedly demanded from him was not her professional fees, but money she purported would be given and was given to EFCC officers.
At the close of prosecutions case, the defence led by learned silk, Mahmood Adesina (SAN) entered a “No Case” submission, arguing that the money was Oreagba’s professional fees.
He argued, among others, that the PW2 stated under cross-examination that he did not give a bribe to any EFCC officers. While also contended that this fundamentally contradicted the other witnesses who testified that the money was meant to influence officers of the Commission.
But the EFCC opposed him, arguing that the charge before the court was not a charge for bribery, but was brought under Section 10 of the ICPC Act, 2000, for corrupt demand by persons and under Section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences Act, 2006.
The EFCC contended further that the defendant had earlier stated at some point in her extra-judicial statement that the said N4m was for restitution. The agency stated further that in the audio recording, she was heard categorically stating the money was meant for EFCC officers.
In her ruling on, Justice Taiwo noted that she had listened to the evidence of the five prosecutions witnesses as well the exhibits, adding that it had heard the audio conversation where the defendant referred to the moneyas being meant for EFCC officers.
The judge also observed that it had seen the extra-judicial statement of the defendant, where she referred to the N4 million, to be meant for restitution and then in the defendant’s address where the money was said to be her professional fees.
“These are questions that need answers from the defendant hence the no case submission fails”, the judge held.
Further hearing of the matter has been adjourned till March 10 and 11, 2022, for the defence to open its case.