Reprieve, as Court Frees Indigent Defendant Of Alleged Fraud

Barr. A. ‘Tony Dania

Reprieve came the way of Benny Imafidon, as Benin, Edo State division of the Federal High Court, discharged and acquitted him of allegation of fraud brought against him, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Imafidon was discharged following the intervention of human rights lawyer, Chief Abdullai Tony Dania, who took over the case pro bono.

The defendant was charged and arraigned before the court presided over by Justice (Prof) Chuka Obiozor, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) sometimes in December 2021, on a count charge of obtaining the sum of N1.4 million, by false pretence.

The offence which is contravened section 1(I)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act. 

The charge against the defendant reads: “that you Benny Imafidon on or about 28th day of April, 2021, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did with intent to defraud, obtain the sum of N1,400,000.00 (One Million, Four Hundred Thousand Naira) only, from one Nosakhare Osagie, for sale of a plot of land measuring 100ft by 100ft, lying and situate at Obagie Nebuosa Community, Edo State under the pretence the said plot of land belong to you and free from any encumbrance, which representation you knew to be false and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(I)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1(3) of the same Act.”

For almost two year while the case lasted, the defendant was without any legal representation.

However, when the matter came up recently, Chief Dania, signified his intention to defend the case ‘probono’ (free of charge), which was granted by the court. 

Upon the granting of Chief Dania’s application, the court called on the prosecuting counsel, F. O. Dibang, to open his case and he called two witnesses to testified and equally tendered Exhibits marked as “A” to “D16”.

Upon conclusion of prosecution’s case, Chief Dania cross-examined the witnesses and the Prosecution closed its case. 

Following closing of prosecution case, Chief Dania filed an application wherein he cited several legal authorites and urged the court to dismiss the case, as well discharge and acquit the defendant, on the ground that the prosecution failed woefully to establish prima-facie case against the defendant.

Delivering judgment, Justice Obiozor, after perusing all the submissions made by both the prosecutor and the defence lawyer, and cited plethoras of legal authorites, held that: “What is the evidence in this case? P.W.1 and P.W.2 assert affirmatively that the land sold belongs to the defendant. Indeed, P.W.2, the nominal complainant, testified that one Festus encroached on the land without the knowledge of the defendant and not in collusion with the Defendant. 

“P. W.2 also testified that from his inquiry, the defendant did not partake in the encroachment or benefit in any manner therefrom. He also testified that when this encroachment was discovered, when he went to the land after the sale transaction, the defendant offered to relocate him to another of his land, which he rejected solely because it was in the forest and was not a place one could build immediately.

“Interestingly, P. W.2 also testified that he would not have gone to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or cause the institution of any criminal report if the purchase price had been repaid to him. It is also the evidence of P.W.2 that the defendant had repaid the sum of N1, 000, 000.00 out of the purchase price of N1, 400,000.00 to him. 

“So, I ask; on these evidence, what criminality is disclosed in this matter thus far now that the prosecution has closed it’s case to warrant an invitation to the defendant to enter his defence? 

“I see none! I have no doubt that this is a case where Section 302 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, ought rightly to be invoked by this Court.

“Accordingly, and pursuant to Section 302 of the Act. | hereby record a finding of not guilty in respect of the defendant on the charge without calling on him to enter his defence. In the final analysis, the defendant is hereby discharged.”

Speaking after the court delivered judgment on the charge, Barrister Dania said: “this is the fastest trial in the history of the criminal matters in the Federal High Court.

“The trial started yesterday and judgment was given next day. The prosecution opened and closed it’s case on the same day and the judge adjourned for next day and judgment was delivered. Indeed it’s the most fastest criminal trial in the Federal High Court.”