Lagos AG Asks Court To Discontinue EFCC’s N1.35b Fraud Case

Ogunsakin Mustapha
5 Min Read
Alhaji Lawal Pedro, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State

The Ikeja Special Offences Court, Lagos will on July 1, 2024, rule on an application filed by the Attorney General of Lagos State to discontinue alleged N1.35b fraud charges against two defendants – Azubuike Ishekwene and Olalekan Abdul – being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Mojisola Dada fixed the date on May 31, 2024, after hearing a motion by Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lawal Pedro (SAN)

Mr. Lawal filed for discontinuance of the case after an earlier attempt to take over its prosecution failed. The court had also earlier ruled that the defendants had a case to answer, as well as that the Prosecution can equally prosecute the defendants before the Honorable Court and under the enabling laws of which they were charged.

The EFCC filed the charge in December 2019 with Ishekwene and Abdul as co-defendants in a 26-count conspiracy, forgery, and stealing charge marked ID/11126C/19.

The duo were arraigned on January 29, 2020.

The anti-graft agency alleged that they conspired with one Adeyinka Adewole and one Morakinyo Bolanle, who are at large, to obtain N350 million, and N1 billion from Wema Bank under false pretences.

The EFCC alleged that the defendants forged a document, dated April 9, 2018, titled ‘BOARD RESOLUTIONS OF CLEANSERVE INTEGRATED ENERGY SOLUTIONS LTD’, purported to have been issued by Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solutions Limited.

The EFCC further alleged that Abdul, on December 14, 2010, presented a false board resolution of Cleanserve Integrated Energy Solutions Limited to Wema Bank to obtain a credit facility of N350m and 1B Naira at different intervals.

Azu Ishiekwene, and Lekan Abdul, former Managing Director of Cleanserve, pleaded not guilty and were granted bail, following which trial commenced in earnest.

The EFCC opened its case in January 2020 and called several witnesses for about three years.

The defendants filed no-case submissions dated August 11 and August 15, 2023, praying the court to dismiss the charges, discharge and acquit them.

They contested the testimony of the EFCC’s witnesses, arguing that the prosecution failed to show any prima facie evidence linking them with any alleged offence.

The first defendant, in particular, told the court that he was a victim of a vendetta by EFCC elements who were disgruntled that he reported them for demanding a $20,000 bribe. The prosecution countered this argument.

In his ruling on November 17, 2023, Justice Dada upheld the EFCC’s argument that a prima facie case had been established and the defendants had questions to answer concerning the allegations.

“The No Case Submissions, therefore, fail and are hereby dismissed and the Defendants are hereby called upon to open their defence. I so hold,” Justice Dada held.

The judge directed the defendants, represented by Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN and Mr. Olumide Fusika, SAN, to open their defence.

The defendants called four witnesses before seeking that the EFCC withdraw the case.

They also applied to the Lagos State Attorney General (AG) to take over the case, a move initially resisted by the AG via a counter application to the court. The AG later withdrew the said counter application and prayed the Honorable Court to give its ruling.

The court after taking arguments from all the sides; the prosecution Franklin Ofoma, and the 1st and 2nd defendants represented by Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN and Mr. Olumide Fusika, SAN, ruled that the defendants should continue with their defence, considering the time and energy already expended on the case, and in the interest of justice for all parties both the victim of the alleged crime, the defendants and the general public.

Things took a different twist when the AG on May 31 filed a motion seeking to discontinue the proceedings.

Justice Dada adjourned till July 1, 2024, for ruling and striking out the criminal charge filed by the Federal Republic of Nigeria against the defendants, with respect to the Notice of Discontinuance filed by the Attorney-General of Lagos State.

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