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Court discharges, acquits ex-NBA President Usoro of N4.2bn fraud charge.

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A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has discharged and acquitted the immediate past President of the Nigerian Barr Association (NBA) Paul Usoro SAN, of the N4.2billion fraud charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC).

Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that the anti graft agency failed to establish any prima facie case against Usoro that will warrant him to enter a defence.

The judge made the decision while ruling on Usoro’s “no case” submission.

He noted that the penal code, under which the NBA chieftain was charged, is not applicable to southern states, i.e Lagos and Akwa-Ibom, which were said to be the locations of the alleged offences.

“On the whole, I hold that the prosecution has failed to establish any prima facie case.

“Accordingly, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted,” Justice Aikawa held.

The defendant had on February 25, a filed no case submission where his counsel Effiong O. Effiong SAN submitted that the EFCC called only two witnesses and closed its case because, according to him, it knew it didn’t have any case against the defendants.

He prayed the court to allow the no-case submission.

But the prosecution opposed his prayer and prayed the court to dismiss the no-case submission, citing the “overwhelming evidence” it said it had adduced and exhibits admitted in evidence.

It also asked the court to order the defendant to enter his defence.

The EFCC had on February 18 closed its case after calling two witnesses.

The agency arraigned Usoro on December 18, 2018 before Justice Muslim Hassan on a 10-count charge.

He pleaded not guilty to all the counts.

He was subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa on a charge marked FHC/418c/18, which alleged that he committed the offence on May 14, 2016.

He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity

In his testimony before the court, an EFCC investigating officer Abdulrahman Arabo said that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, hired Usoro who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him at the Election Tribunal where his victory was being challenged in 2015.

The EFFC witness also testified that the sum of N1.4 billion legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.

Usoro vigorously denied the allegations.

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