JUSTICE ADEMOLA’S DISCHARGE & ACQUITTAL SIMPLIFIED (PART 2)

This is the second part of the explication of the ruling that acquitted Justice Adeniyi Ademola, his wife, Olabowale Ademola and a senior legal practitioner, Joe Agi SAN.

The first part of this article can be read here.

PART TWO:

It is safe to conclude that either the third and fourth incidents are similar, or the rationale behind the supposed criminality behind them are.  During the raid carried out in Justice Ademola’s residence in Abuja on the 7th of October 2016, the sums of N54 million, $121,279, 1,010 Rupees and 4,400 Euros were recovered. Also, in February 2014, Justice Ademola transferred the sums of N85 Million and N90 Million from his account to a property company. The case of the prosecution was that the Judge spent as well as had in his possession sums of monies which going by his salaries and emoluments cannot be said to be legitimate income. He must thus have been collecting bribe and gratification to have and spend such sums of money.

Two officers who were part of the raid on Justice Ademola’s home in Abuja on the 9th of October 2016 gave evidence as to the money they recovered in both local and foreign currency. A banker from Guaranty Trust Bank also testified as to the transactions involving the transfers of N85 Million and N90 Million from Justice Ademola’s account to a property company in 2014 and his statement of account was tendered. The prosecution also called the chief accountant of the Federal High Court to give evidence on the Judge’s salary and emoluments and tendered documents evidencing the salaries and emoluments paid to Justice Ademola from December 2009 to December 2016. The chief accountant of the Federal High Court testified that judges are on consolidated salaries derived from the Consolidated Revenue Funds. Justice Ademola’s net monthly salary is N528,638.78 and he receives monthly welfare allowance of N305,000. He is paid furniture allowance every four years in the sum of N5,413,220.00 and is entitled to medical treatment/checkup overseas once a year for which estacodes allowance are paid. The amount for this varies due to fluctuation in exchange rates but for the previous year (2015), the air fare was N1.6 Million and the sum of $6,300 paid as estacodes. Justice Ademola is also paid annual leave allowance as well as duty tour allowance. He added that the Federal High Court usually paid estacodes in dollars and the recipient could then convert it to the currency used in the country he intends to visit.

While being cross examined, the chief accountant added that the evidence he had presented as salaries and emoluments paid to Justice Ademola did not include the estacodes and allowances he received from externally funded conferences, seminars and workshops. His evidence also did not include income derived from inheritance, investments in blue chip companies and or properties.

The investigating officers while being cross-examined admitted that they know that the British Government and the Federal High Court periodically organized programmes for judges on terrorism and that the estacodes paid to the Judges for those conferences were paid in foreign currency. PW 16 admitted that he discovered during his investigation that Justice Ademola’s income also includes what he received as a beneficiary from the estates of his father (a retired justice of the Court of Appeal) and grandfather (a former Chief Justice of Nigeria). He was particularly referred to a transaction in the sum of $520,000 which Justice Ademola received from Johnson & Johnson Partners and he admitted that the money in like sum was shared with Justice Ademola’s other two brothers and accrued to them as beneficiaries of the estate of their late father and grandfather.

 

Regarding the monies recovered in Justice Ademola’s home during the raid, the court said as follows:

With respect to the evidence of the Pw16 which the Court had previously reviewed, there is nothing to show that the monies mentioned in Count 10 of the charge (i.e. the Naira, Dollars, Rupees, Pounds and Euros) were received by the 1st Defendant pursuant to an illegal transaction or that any part of them was received as subject matter of an offence under Sections 10, 11. 13 to 20 of the Act … A sober consideration of the evidence of the Pw13 shows it is one which rather than support Count 10 of the charge derails it. If the same prosecution which accuses the 1st Defendant of holding the monies aforesaid as gratification through the Pw13 turns around to say the 1st Defendant as a Judge of Federal High Court received estacodes in foreign currencies in 2015, when paid to him it belonged to him and when paid the estacodes he could choose to keep same at home or change them to local currency, then this Court as a reasonable Count and fact trier has no basis to call upon the 1st Defendant to explain the source of the monies mentioned in Count 10 of the charge said to have been recovered from his residence by the complainant. The same Complainant/Prosecution which raised the allegations, through the Pw13 provided the answers to it. Nothing remains for 1st Defendant to explain in the said Count 10.”

 

Regarding the transfers of the sums of N85 million and N90 million, the court said:

From the foregoing testimonies of the Prosecutions Pw13 and Pw16, it is discernible the same Prosecution which in Counts 12 and 13 of the Charge alleges the 1st Defendants transfer of the sums of N90, 000, 000.00 and N85, 000, 000.00 are proceeds of unlawful act, not only failed to disclose the unlawful act from which the monies were derived but pushed to the fore the various other legitimate sources of income of the 1st Defendant which render it reasonable he can afford the said sums of N90, 000, 000.00 and N85, 000, 000.00 mentioned in the Counts. As rightly pointed out by the Defendants Counsel the Prosecution witnesses affirmed the other lawful income of the 1st Defendant other than his salaries … It cannot in all reasonableness be said that a man who earns the amount of salaries in Naira, estacodes and allowances in Dollars and other foreign currencies as a Judges, practiced law as a legal practitioner for over twenty years during which he made investments before becoming a Judge, inherited real estates from a grandfather who rose to become a Chief Justice of Nigeria and a father who rose to become a Justice of Court of Appeal and has been earning the salaries, estacodes, and allowances above since 2004 when he was elevated to the bench; does not possess the capacity or even goodwill (not related or arising from his official functions) to muster the sums of N90, 000, 000.00 and N85, 000, 000.00 to invest in a property.”

 

The court concluded on this issue with this profound statement:

“It must be said loud and clear that while the nature of a Judge’s duties makes him to live solitary and humble life, that does not mean that every Judge is a church mouse and cannot be blessed with a rich, affluent and prodigious background from which he can live a decent life or make investments.”

 

The fifth incident involved a defendant in a criminal case pending before Justice Ademola – Dr. Sanni Shaibu Teidi. The prosecution accused the Judge of attempting to obtain gratification in the sum of N25 million from Dr. Teidi. Evidence in respect of this offence was led by Mr. Sanni Shaibu Teidi himself (PW6) and his wife (PW7). Dr. Teidi’s wife, PW 7, testified that she was receiving telephone calls from one Kingsley O who asked her to bring the sum of N25 million so that Justice Ademola would approve her husband’s application for bail. She believed the caller was relating to the Judge because he always called on the eve of her husband’s case and would predict correctly what would happen in court the next day. The court found this attempt to link Kingsley.O. to Justice Ademola as “a piece of evidence founded on speculation or suspicion which this court as a reasonable criminal court cannot act on.”

 

On the charge of attempting to obtain gratification, the court stated:

“None of them led any evidence showing any extra judicial contact with the 1st Defendant all through the Pw6s trial in the 1st Defendants Court. … Since the ingredients of the offence require that there must be proof that the accused (Defendant) himself attempted to obtain the gratification and in the said Court 13 of the charge the 1st Defendant is alleged to have attempted to obtain the gratification whilst the Pw6 and Pw7s evidence showed it was one Kingsley O who made the attempts through the telephone calls aforesaid, the Prosecution has not adduced the requisite prima facie evidence that will require the 1st Defendant to put up a defence. The calls must be shown to have been made by the 1st Defendant for the prima facie case to be said to have made out in that Count.”

 

The last incident also arose from the raid carried out in Justice Ademola’s home on the 7th of October 2016. While searching his residence, officers found two black Pump Action rifles and 35 live cartridges of ammunition. Two licenses were recovered for the guns showing they were registered in the name of Justice Ademola and Justice A.R. Mohammed. The licenses had however expired in December 2005. The prosecution charged Justice Ademola with possession of firearms and ammunition without a license and giving false information in his statement to an officer of the DSS when he said one pump action rifle and its accompanying cartridges belonged to Justice A.R. Mohammed.

 

PW16 testified that when he questioned Justice Ademola about the guns and ammunition, Justice Ademola had informed him that they had been purchased on the advice of men from the British High Commission and the DSS to judges who were handling some sensitive terrorism cases. Justice Ademola also stated that while one belonged to him, the second one belonged to Justice A.R. Mohammed. On how he came to be in possession of the firearm belonging to Justice Mohammed, the witness testified that Justice Ademola had explained that Justice Mohammed had made efforts twice to collect it from him but he was out of station. Thereafter, Justice Mohammed was involved in a car accident and he felt it would be insensitive to ask him to come for the firearm given his disposition after the accident. The two licenses recovered with the firearms had expired in December 2005 and PW16 testified that when he enquired about the renewed licenses from Justice Ademola, he had promised to produce them but did not do so until the trial.

 

While PW16 stated in his examination-in-chief that Justice Mohammed denied ownership of the gun, he admitted under cross-examination that Justice Mohammed had in his statement given to the DSS stated that he was approached by a gun dealer recommended by Justice Ademola who had told him he would supply the firearms and he could pay for it later.

 

During cross-examination, the renewed licenses were tendered through PW16. They showed that the renewal had been issued on the 12th of October 2016, after the discovery of the weapons during the raid which was on the 7th of October 2016. The prosecution argued that at the time the weapons were found (during the raid), Justice Ademola did not have a valid license for his gun and ammunition and that the renewal procured subsequently on the 12th of October 2016 could not cure the defect in possession of the firearms as the new licenses could not have retrospective effect.

 

Though the legal reasoning of the court on the validity of some counts were skipped in this analysis of the ruling to reduce the legal technicalities for non-lawyers who might be interested in the ruling, it is important to state the position of the court in respect of this allegation because unlike the other allegations, it weighs heavily on decision of the court in its finding that no offence has been committed. Remember, the issue here is narrow – when the firearms were discovered during the raid, the license that covered them had expired since December 2005. At trial, the renewed licenses that were tendered were issued on the 12th of October 2016 (after the raid).

 

The court said:

“I have given due consideration to the foregoing contentions. A look at Count 15 of the Charge shows the 1st defendant is charged with the possession of one Pump Action riffle with number AVAR MAGNUM 6084 without a valid licence. The charge having been predicated on possession of firearm without a valid licence while the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act limits the offence under the Act to a person having a firearm in his possession or under his control in contravention of the Firearms Act or any order made thereunder. The count of the charge as couched by adding without valid licence took it outside the ambit of Section 3 of Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act. It is my respectful view that if the charge is brought pursuant to any order made pursuant to Section 3, that order ought to have been specifically mentioned in the charge for the guidance of the court and the 1st defendant. It is the view of the court that while Section 3(1) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act envisages that a person who is in possession of Firearm contrary to the Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, be sentenced to a fine of twenty thousand Naira or imprisonment of ten years or both, the charge which has included the element of possession without valid licence is in conflict with the provision of Section 3 of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act. The Prosecution which added possession of firearm without valid licence, if the addition is predicated on any law or order or regulation (whether made pursuant to the Act or otherwise) ought to have stated so in the charge. As it is now, it is the humble view of the Court that the Charge is inconsistent with the provision of Section 3 of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act. This is particularly so as Section 28 of the Firearms Act referred to in Section B (2) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act does not deal with possession of fire arm without valid licence, but rather the need for such a holder to produce the licence or permit relating to the gun upon request by a Police officer. Under Section 29, the Police officer is to allow the person reasonable time to comply.

Different considerations would have applied if the charge is with respect to the 1st Defendant being in possession of firearms and failed to produce the licence relating to it upon demand by a Police officer after a reasonable time. The effect of the foregoing findings is that the Prosecutions Count 14 is inconsistent with or not in agreement with the provision of Section 3 of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act it is predicated on.”

 

On the effect of the renewed licenses tendered in court during the trial, the court stated:

Beyond these, the Court has critically examined both exhibits. Whilst as shown at the back of his application form, the 1st Defendant got approval for a licence to bear a gun on 10th October 2000, Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed got his while the 1st Defendants licence (Exhibit DDD) was issued on 10th October 2000 that of Hon. Justice A. R. Mohammed (Exhibit EEE) was issued on 5th October 2000. Whilst the renewal in Exhibit DDD covers the period 12th October 2016 to 31st December 2018, that in exhibit EEE covers the period 20th October 2016 to 31st December, 2018.

Although the learned Prosecution Counsel contended that as at 7th October 2015 when the guns were found in the 1st Defendants house there was no valid licences for them, evidence before the Court reveals no request was made for production of the licences or their renewals on that date. The fact that the licence were produced and tendered during the proceedings would not render them unavailing to the 1st Defendant in the circumstances in which the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act does not in clear terms place a time limit within which the licence or renewal must be produced.

Section 29 says the Police is to give the holder of the gun reasonable time to produce the licence. The phrase reasonable time was not defined in the Section. Beyond these, a rightly submitted by the learned 1st Defendants Counsel Exhibits DDD and EEE being documents as shown on their faces were made in a manner substantially regular, enjoy presumption of regularity under Section 168 of the Evidence Act 2011. They therefore avail the 1st Defendant in the circumstances.

The learned Prosecutions Counsels contention would have been tenable if in the light of the provision of Section 3, of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act and 28 and 29 of the Fire Arms Act the 1st Defendant at all material times up till trial failed to produce licences/renewals to justify the firearms found in his possession.”

 

On whether Justice Ademola was guilty of giving false information in his statement to the DSS regarding the ownership of one of the firearms and ammunition found in his home, the court found:

“Records of proceedings at page 169 nevertheless show that under cross examination by the learned 1st Defendants Counsel, the Pw16 stated inter alia that he came across A. R. Mohammed, J in the course of his investigations. Exhibit JJ shown to him bears the name and photograph of A. R. Mohammed J, he interviewed. He took statement from him and in it he said he was approached by a gun dealer recommended by the 1st Defendant and the dealer told him he would supply the firearms to him and he could pay later. At page 170 he confirmed the 1st Defendants explanation to him that Hon. A. R. Mohammed had an accident hence he had not come for his gun.

In the light of the Pw16s evidence under cross examination that he interviewed A. R. Mohammed J, the name and picture of the person in Exhibit JJ are his, and given that Exhibit JJ is the licence for one of the guns, can it be said that the 1st Defendant information to the Pw16 that one of the guns belonged to A. R. Mohammed, J is false? I do not think so.”

 

Thus, Justice Ademola and his co-defendants were discharged and acquitted of the 18-count amended charge against them. This analysis would not however be complete if it did not include the thoughts and contemplations of the presiding Judge, Justice Jude Okeke on the trial. He said:

“Before my ink dries, let me quickly mention that, this Court did give very serious thoughts to the circumstances of this case. There is no gainsaying that the case is built on high level suspicions and speculation fuelled by the enthusiasm of the very important Nigerians’ current fight against corruption. Whilst such level of suspicion or speculation can in the eyes of pedestrians and uninformed ordinary persons in market places suffice for the Defendants to be condemned so as to give fillip to the fight against corruption, in the eyes of the law however, the suspicions do not measure up to the standard required for the Defendants to be condemned to further trial.

To the extent that in our legal jurisprudence (which is still adversarial) the burden of proving any person guilty of an offence remains the duty of the Prosecution or the complainant, it will be a sad day if this extant state of the law is kicked aside by the Court and the Defendants made to prove their innocence by further trial in order to achieve the approval and applause of uninformed minds. This Court will be failing in its duty if it panders to such sentiment. This brings to the fore the all important need for our security/law enforcement, and prosecutorial agencies to patiently conduct proper, water tight and unassailable investigations before suspects are arraigned in Court. As cumbersome or onerous as this could be, the nation will be better for it in its current fight against corruption. I say no more and hope the message here will be taken in good faith.”

 

 

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