By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
A United Kingdom (UK) based medical practitioner, Dr Reuben Obaro and wife, Mrs Ayodele Obaro, have dragged the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and four others before a federal high court over their alleged malicious trial on corruption.
The London-based couple was arraigned on an eight-count charge bordering on corruption, misappropriation amongst others.
However, Justice Anthony Ebong of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in dismissing the ICPC’s case against Obaro and wife, held that the commission acted in bad faith in filing the charges against the renowned medical practitioners.
Meanwhile, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday fixed May 25 for mention of their suit against ICPC.
Justice Ojukwu fixed the date for mention following confirmation that the fifth defentant in the matter has not been served with the court processes.
When the matter was called, plaintiff’s counsel, Professor Joachim Amupitan, SAN, informed the court that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and three other defendants have been served with writ of summons and other processes on February 24, 2021.
The senior lawyer however added that the fifth defendant was yet to be served and that he will take steps to do the needful.
However before granting adjournment into the matter, the Judge drew Amupitan’s attention to the fact that the writ of summons was issued out on December 17, 2020 and will become invalid if not served by March 17, 2021 as stipulated by law.
Professor Amupitan who thanked the judge for the hint assured that the fifth defendant would be served with writ of summons within the remaining time.
The judge subsequently fixed May 25 for the report of service on the fifth defentant and for the mention of the suit.
Recall that Justice Ebong while delivering ruling in a no-case submission argued by the Obaros’ lawyer, Mr John Egwuonwu, held that the eight count charges were unfounded and could not be established against the defendants as required by law.
The ICPC had in 2018 arraigned the defendants/ plaintiffs alleging that N186m 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 given to the defendants/plaintiffs 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.
In the ruling Justice Ebong held that the ICPC failed woefully to prove ingredients of conspiracy, misappropriation and giving false information charges against the two medical personnel beyond reasonable doubt.
The judge held that the conspiracy charge against Mrs Obaro and the Stephen James Stroke Centre cannot stand in the face of the law because the hospital is an artificial body that has no mind of its own and as such cannot conspire with a human being to commit fraud.
The court, in addition, noted that the ICPC as well as its witnesses failed to tender documents to establish their allegations.
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 cannot safely hold that the vehicle was purchased from the seed grant.
In all, the court held that the evidence of the five witnesses of the ICPC were so unreliable that no reasonable court of law can convict anybody.
Justice Ebong, 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 charge 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 complaint against the defendants but against staff of Sure-P Secretariat, adding that 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”, Justice Ebong held.
UK-based Medical Doctor, Obaro, Wife Drag ICPC, Others To Court over Alleged Malicious Trial
By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja