Court Quashes Charges Preferred Against Daniel By EFCC
For not complying with due process and circumventing laid down procedure, an Ogun State High Court sitting in Abeokuta has quashed the case preferred against the former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje on Friday March 2, 2012 ruled that non compliance
with the rules guiding the filing of such indictable offence was fatal to the case of the anti- corruption agency and as such the court had no option than to discontinue proceedings in the case and resolve the matter in favor of the applicant. The Judge agreed with the lead counsel of the applicant, Professor Taiwo Osipitan, that for such a case to become validly filed, the originating information must be filed with the prior leave of the Chief Judge or the court in accordance with section 340 of criminal procedure law of Ogun state which stipulates that “prior leave is mandatory”.
He said the fatal procedural error committed by the EFCC left the court with no other option than to discontinue with the proceedings and the case against the former governor was therefore quashed. Immediately after the judgment, supporters and admirers of the former Governor burst into songs of joy and praises to the almighty. He was thereafter accompanied by a long convoy of vehicles back to his residence in Sagamu.
During earlier proceedings the former governor through his lead counsel, Professor Taiwo Osipitan had told the court to quash the charges on the grounds that they were unconstitutional, illegal and meant to harass him while the EFCC through its counsel Rotimi Jacob insisted that the case must go on as it has established a prima facie case.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Friday January 20, Justice Mabekoje granted the prayers of the lead counsel Professor Taiwo Osipitan that Otunba Daniel should stand down from the dock until the determination of the issue of jurisdiction and locus standi by the court. Osipitan had told reporters after the adjournment that team was on solid ground and was asking for the quashing of the case since the case was not properly filed, no money was stolen by Otunba Daniel and nothing connects the former governor to any crime from the proof of evidence provided. “Apart from the defective way the case was filed by the EFCC, we have shown that they have no case against Otunba Daniel, It is not an offence to be a governor, “The counsel stated. He said the legal team was ready to face the prosecution but it has only maintained that due process must be followed.
On the first day of hearing the lead counsel had told the court that the charge against Daniel should be quashed because they were designed to intimidate and harass the former governor who was being vilified for political reasons. He said from the proof of evidence provided no kobo of Ogun State money had been stolen or missing. Osipitan said that the answer to some of the charges were already in the proof of evidence. For instance the 4million dollars alleged to have been stolen was shown to have been duly converted to naira and paid into the account of the government to pay salary and meet other statutory needs. He cited the evidence of two officials of the state government who in their evidence to EFCC confirmed that the money was duly paid into the coffers of the state government to meet the needs of salary and other expenditure. He read out their evidence from the proof of evidence provided by EFCC where the two officials confirmed that the money was used to meet statutory payments of the Ogun State government after due process had been followed in withdrawing, converting to naira and using the money to pay salaries and the statutory expenditure of government. . On local government funds Professor Osipitan said no evidence of fraudulent conversion was shown and what was shown was disagreement over distribution by operators of the council and no linkage was made to show that Daniel fraudulently converted the funds to his own use. He said the judgment had validated the position of the legal team
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Otunba Daniel while reacting to the judgment described it as a victory for the rule of law which has further deepened his faith in the judicial system of the country.