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Updated: Court Discharges Akala, Hallelujah, Jogor of N11.5bn Fraud

The Court of Appeal, sitting in Ibadan, on Thursday discharged and acquitted Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, former governor of Oyo State, over N11.5billion corruption charges levelled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Two other persons facing the corruption charges along with Alao-Akala; Sen.Hosea Agboola – former deputy Chief Whip of the senate and Mr Femi Babalola, a business mogul, were also discharged and acquitted.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Agboola, is currently the Chairman of the Advisory Council to Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo state.

He served as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, during the tenure of Alao-Akala as Oyo state governor between 2007 and 2011 while
Babalola, owns an engineering firm, Pentagon Engineering Services, that executed some contracts during the administration.

The litigation, which started 11 years ago, was concluded by a three-man panel presided over by Justice Jimi Bada and had Justices Abba Muhammed and Abdulazeez Waziri as members.

The panel of the Court of Appeal, in their unanimous judgment set aside the ruling of the lower court, on the grounds that the trial court erred by ordering the defendants to enter defence for the three counts because the prosecution led by the EFCC failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

Justice Bada read the judgment for Alao-Akala, while Justices Abba Muhammed and Abdulazeez Waziri read the judgments for Babalola and Agboola respectively.

The three defendants/appellants were physically present at the Court of Appeal during the judgement.

The counsel to EFCC, Dr Benedict
Ubi, however, refused to grant interview on his reaction to the judgement.

The lead counsel to Alao-Akala and Babalola, Chief Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, represented by Abiodun Ogunjinmi, told journalists after the judgment that the judgement was beautiful.

“We really appreciate and thank God for giving us a beautiful judgment today.

“The justice did a marvellous job, this case started in 2012, which was about 11 years ago but ended well today.

“The appellant, Alao-Akala and Babalola were all discharged and acquitted finally,” Ogunjimi said.

In their reactions, Alao-Akala and Femi Babalola said commended the judiciary for the judgement.

Alao-Akala said “I always rely on the judiciary, it is the hope for the common man like me.

“So, we thank God for everything. God has settled everything, and so, let us forget about the number of years the case took.”

NAN recalls that Alao-Akala and the two others had been arraigned in 2012 by EFCC before an Oyo State High Court, sitting in Ibadan on 11 count-charge of N11.5billion fraud.

The charges comprised conspiracy, awarding contract without budgetary provision, obtaining by false pretence, acquiring property with money derived from illegal act and concealing the ownership of such property, among others.

The EFCC’s counsel, Dr Benedict Ubi, had told the lower court that when Alao-Akala was the governor of Oyo State, he awarded a road contract worth N8.5billion between 2007 and 2009 to Pentagon Engineering Services.

Ubi alleged further that the firm handled the contract on behalf of the 33 local governments areas of the state without budgetary provision.

According to him, Alao-Akala ordered the supply of drilling machines on behalf of the 33 local government areas worth N3.5billion.

He alleged that Alao-Akala purportedly conspired with Ayoola to withdraw N2.9 billion from Oyo State Local Government Joint Account.

Ubi also told the court that Alao-Akala illegally acquired some property on Old Bodija Road, Off Rotimi Williams Road in Ibadan, when he was the governor.

The EFCC Counsel stated that the alleged offences contravened section 22 (4) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and Section 1 (18) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act.

But Alao-Akala, Agboola and Babalola, filed a no-case submission after the EFCC closed its case before the High Court.

However, the trial court, presided over by Justice Muniru Owolabi, struck out eight out of the 11 count-charge against Alao-Akala and two others.

Justice Owolabi then ordered him (Akala) to enter defence for the remaining three counts, which were counts of Conspiracy, Obtaining money by false pretences and Award of contract without budgetary provision.

He, however, discharged the former governor on the charges of acquiring property with money allegedly derived from an illegal act and concealing ownership of such property.

The judge said the witnesses called by the prosecutor failed to link evidence to the acquired property, adding that EFCC also failed to prove genuine ownership of the property.

Having not satisfied, Alao-Akala and the others appealed the case at the Court of Appeal.

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