EFCC appeals ruling in UBEC’s N787m contract case
EFCC appeals ruling in UBEC’s N787m contract caseThe Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has appealed a Federal High Court, Abuja’s ruling, freeing five people and two companies, charged with N78million fraud. The alledge fruad in related to contract awarded by the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEC) between 2004 and 2005.
The contract was for the supply of 109,400 plastic chairs and tables for public schools.
Those freed include former UBEC’s Executive Secretary Prof Bridget Omotunde Sokan, Molkat Manasseh Mutfwang, Dr. Andrew Ekpunobi and Michael Aule (directors in UBEC).
Also freed is Alexander John Cozman (a foreign contractor) and two of his companies – Intermarkets USA LSC and Intermarkets Nigeria Limited.
They were arraigned in 2009 by the EFCC on a 64-count charge.
Justice Adamu Bello, in the September 19 ruling on a no-case submission by the accused, held that the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against the on to warrant their being called upon to enter defence.
In a notice of appeal filed on Monday by EFCC’s lawyer, Wahab Shittu, the commission raised two grounds of appeal, urging the appellate court to order the freed accused to enter their defence before the lower court.
The EFCC urged the court to allow its appeal and set aside the lower court’s order.
In its first ground of appeal, the EFCC argued that the judge erred in law by upholding and granting the respondents (the accused’) application for a no-case submission “in spite of the evidential materials, oral and documentary placed before the lower court at the close of the prosecution’s case.”
It argued that “there are sufficient materials before the lower court entitling the 1st to 7th respondents to offer explanations and enter defence before the lower court.
“The evidence adduced by the prosecution against the 1st to 7th respondents was neither discredited as a result of cross-examination nor manifestly unreliable as erroneously held by the trial court.
“The lower court did not advert its mind to the fact that at the stage of no-case submission, questions do not arise as to whether the court believed the evidence tendered.”
The commission’s second ground of appeal is that the lower court erred in law on the purport and meaning of jurisprudence of prima facie in reaching a decision that the accused had no case to answer.
It argued that it was “a settled law that prima facie case is the minimal incriminating evidence that must be apparent to the court when the prosecution closes its case in a criminal case.”
The appellant argued that the trial court failed to consider most of its evidence that were sufficient to make the court hold in favour of the prosecution.
EFCC’s Head, Media and Publicity Unit, Wilson Uwujaren, in a statement yesterday confirmed the appeal.
He quoted Shittu as arguing that “the lower court did not give weight to the legally admissible evidence (report) from the Auditor-General of the Federation, marked exhibit 6, indicting the accused neither did it weigh in other reports from the State Security Services, (SSS) marked exhibit 10 and the investigative report of EFCC also marked exhibit 59.”