The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, on Friday discharged and acquitted the former Vice Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market, Chris Azubuogu, of charges bordering on dishonest conversion of the sum of $4,095 released by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as estacode for him to attend a capacity building workshop in the Dominican Republic.
In the lead judgment read by Justice Amiru Sanusi, the appellate court held that the Abuja High Court erred in law when it threw out Azubuogu’s no-case submission especially as the prosecution failed to prove the essential elements of the charge.
“The Prosecution witness 1 is an investigator with the EFCC and under cross examination he admitted that it was impossible for the applicant to have traveled to the Dominican Republic for the conference, as the estacode was paid to him on the eve when the conference was supposed to end.
“They further admitted that the second accused person (Azubuogu) had offered to return the estacode”, the judge said.
The court noted that under cross examination, Prosecution Witness 4, a staff of SEC, admitted that “when an estacode is collected and the person did not travel another trip would be arranged for him, and the person can return the said money at any time”.
“It is evident that from the incontrovertible pieces of evidence, that there is no evidence before the trial court to prove that the appellant committed the said offence – it is evident that the second accused person had directed that the estacode be returned to SEC”, the judge added.
Justice Sanusi further held that “there was ample unsubstantiated and unchallenged evidence at the end of the prosecution’s case that there was no prima facie case neither was there a justifiable evidence to continue with the case”.
Striking out the charge against the rep member, he said, “The most likely thing for the trial judge was to strike out the case.