The Economic and Financial crimes commission (EFCC) today to the amazement of lawyers in court suddenly closed the prosecution’s case against the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association Mr Paul Usoro who is being tried for receiving his professional fees from Akwa Ibom State Governor.
The reason behind the abrupt close of the prosecution’s case is still unknown.
The matter came up yesterday 17th of February where the EFCC through their counsel informed the court that the prosecution will be calling another witness after the PW2 Mohammed Arabu who by the way was absent in court yesterday . Following that request, the court adjourned for 18th and 19th for the defence to conclude the cross examination of PW2 and the Examination in Chief and cross examination of PW3.
However at the end of the cross examination of PW2 , to the amazement of the defence lawyers, the prosecution announced that they will be closing their case.
It can be recalled that EFCC witnesses during the trial have under the fire of cross examination recanted some statements.The most popular one being when the PW1 admitted that she lied against the defendant.
Many lawyers who follow the case had been anticipating the evidence of the lawyers who worked on the Akwa Ibom state briefs with the defendant and the evidence of the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State who the prosecution had alleged received kickbacks.
In January the PW2 had admitted that they neither tendered nor investigated the account of the AG to confirm if the money paid to the AG was indeed used to pay Akwa Ibom State Lawyers who worked on the various briefs. He has also said that the case against the former President of the NBA was initiated during an independent investigation on the funds of another Lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN but never called him as a witness.
The PW2 today told the court that the EFCC did not receive any petition against Mr. Paul Usoro SAN from anybody prior to initiating the investigation that the EFCC relied on “self-generated” intelligence gathered while investigating an NFIU intelligence report against Mr. Ikpeazu Onyechi SAN.
On the allegation that the N1.1b paid to the Defendant by the Akwa Ibom State Government was for election matters, the PW2 confirmed that there was no statement nor evidence to support the allegation. He said the EFCC relied on the statement made by some of the lawyers who received payment for handling election matters from PUC. When confronted with the Statement of one of the lawyers who indicated that his payment was not for Akwa Ibom State election petition, PW2 insisted that the only investigation relied on was the statement by the lawyers.
It was the PW2’s evidence in chief that the invitation to the Akwa Ibom State Government to explain the payment of the N1.1bn to PUC was not honoured. During cross examination he confirmed that the AG was in a position to explain the payment. He also confirmed that the AG was at their office after the investigation had commenced. When asked why the investigation team did not ask the AG for clarification, PW2 stated that the need had not arisen.
He told the court that the EFCC relied on the statement of PW1 to file the charges against the Defendant. He also confirmed that the Defendant was not confronted with the PW1’s statement prior to filing the charges. When informed by the Defence counsel that PW1 abandoned her statement to the EFCC and gave different testimony in court, PW2 responded that he was not in court when the PW1 testified and cannot speak on whatever she said.
PW2 also confirmed that the Defendant gave a breakdown of payment to lawyers as well as the balance on the account after payment to lawyers.