The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, on Thursday, dismissed fraud charges brought against a UK-based Nigerian Medical Doctor, Reuben-Olu Obaro, and his wife, Ayodele, also a practising nurse in the country.
Justice A. O. Ebong, who dismissed the eight-count charge against them, held that the prosecution acted in bad faith in filing the charge.
It was observed that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) had arraigned the couple before the court on allegations that N186 million out of the sum of N450 million seed grant given to them by the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (Sure-P) in aid of an hospital project was misappropriated.
The money was granted for the construction and purchase of equipment for the Stephen James Stroke Centre of Excellence in the Gudu District of the FCT, Abuja.
However, after calling five witnesses, and tendering several documents, the anti-graft agency closed its case prompting the defendants to file a no-case submission.
Delivering ruling in a no-case submission argued by J. N. Egwuonwu SAN, counsel to the couple, Justice Ebong held that the charges were unfounded and could not be established against the defendants as required by law.
The judge held that the ICPC failed woefully to prove ingredients of conspiracy, misappropriation and given false information charges against the two medical personnel beyond reasonable doubt.
He said the conspiracy charge against Mrs Obaro and the Stephen James Stroke Centre could not stand in the face of the law because the hospital was an artificial body that had no mind of its own and as such could not conspire with human being to commit fraud.
Contrary to the claim of ICPC that the seed grant was strictly for the hospital project, the judge, who faulted the line of investigation of the commission, held that no document or any of its witnesses established the allegation.
Justice Ebong also dismissed an allegation that Mrs Obaro purchased a Prado Jeep from the seed grant, adding that the bank statement tendered by ICPC showed that the couple had personal funds in the said bank account and as such the ICPC could not safely hold that the vehicle was purchased from the seed grant.
He held that the evidence of the five witnesses of the ICPC were so unreliable that no reasonable court of law could convict anybody.
The judge, therefore, discharged and acquitted the defendants from the eight count charges on the grounds that prima facie case was not made against them to warrant their being called upon to make any defence.
“I find no evidence to support the eight count charges against the defendants and I pronounced them not guilty of the charges. But I like to say that it does not appear that there was any reasonable grounds to have filed the charges against the defendants.
“The petition by one Musa Dankano which led to the charge made no complain against the defendants but against staff of Sure-P Secretariat.
“There is also no report from any government agency indicting the defendants for mismanaging the grant.
“This sort of dubious and frivolous attack on the character and reputation of renowned persons like the defendants cannot help the Federal Government to get deserved foreign investors it is yearning for.
“Our investigators and prosecuting agencies should have a rethink on how they go about exercising their power so as not to inflict injuries on the citizens through malicious damage,” the judge ruled.