An Ibadan division of the Court of Appeal has discharged and acquitted Adebayo Alao-Akala, a former governor of Oyo state of N11.5 billion corruption charges proffered against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mr Alao-Akala was discharged and acquitted alongside a former Deputy Chief of the Senate, Hosea Agboola and a businessman Mr Femi Babalola who were arraigned in 2012 before the Oyo state high court on an 11 count-charge bordering on fraud to the tune of N11.5 billion.
In a unanimous judgement by a three-man panel led by Justice Jimi Bada on Thursday, while setting aside the ruling of the lower court, the panel held that EFCC failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants.
What happened in court
While Alao-Akala was the governor of the state, Mr Agboola was the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters and Mr Babalola was the owner of Pentagon Engineering Services, the firm responsible for executing contracts at the time.
Benedict Ubi, EFCC’s counsel, told the court in 2012 that Mr Alao-Akala awarded a road contract worth N8.5billion between 2007 and 2009 to Babalola’s pentagon engineering services while he was the governor of Oyo state. However, the firm handled the contract on behalf of the 33 local government areas of the state without budgetary provisions.
EFCC further alleged that Mr Alao- Akala ordered the supply of drilling machines on behalf of the local government at the cost of N3.5 billion and conspired with Agboola to withdraw N2.9billion from the joint state and local government accounts.
He told the court that, Mr Alao-Akala illegally acquired properties at Old Bodija road, Off Rotimi Williams road in Ibadan while he was governor and the offences contravened section 22 (4) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and Section 1 (18) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act.
The presiding judge at the trial court, Justice Muniru Owolabi after listening to arguments from both counsels, struck out eight out of the 11 count charges and ordered the defendants to enter defence for the rest three counts which bordered on conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence and award of contract without budgetary provisions.
However, justice Owolabi discharged the former governor on the charges of acquiring property with money derived from illegal acts and concealing ownership of such property. The judge said witnesses called by the prosecutor had failed to link evidence to the acquired property.
The defendants headed to the court of appeal because they were dissatisfied with the judgement of the lower court.
The decision of the court and reactions
The court held that the trial court erred by ordering the defendants to enter defence for the three-count charges because the prosecution, led by EFCC, failed to establish a prima facie case against them.
Reacting to the judgement after the trial, while EFCC counsel refused to comment, the Lead Counsel to the defendants said the judgment was a “beautiful” one.
“We really appreciate and thank God for giving us a beautiful judgment today. The justices did a marvellous job. This case started in 2012, which was about 11 years ago but ended well today.” Mr said Alao-Akala.
Mr Alao-Akala, in his reactions, commended the judiciary for the judgment and said he had always relied on it as the last hope of the common man like him.
He went on to say, “We thank God for everything. God has settled everything, and so, let us forget about the number of years the case took.”
What you should know
- The charges were: conspiracy, awarding of a contract without budgetary provisions, obtaining by false pretence, acquiring property with money derived from illegal acts and concealing the ownership of such property, among others.
- The defendants were present in court on Thursday when the judgement was read.
- Mr Alao-Akala was the governor of Oyo state from 2007 to 2011.
- Mr Agboola is currently the Chairman of the Advisory Council to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.