The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja, on Tuesday dismissed corruption charges involving alleged mismanagement of about N115m public fund levelled against Mounir Gwarzo, the suspended Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC.
In November 2017, Kemi Adeosun, the former Minister of Finance, had suspended Mr Gwarzo over allegations of financial improprieties, part of which formed the basis for the charges brought against him and Zakwanu Garuba, a commissioner of the commission.
But, in a ruling on Tuesday, according to a report by SaharaReporters, Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf discharged and acquitted both Messrs Gwarzo and Garuba of the charges in all the five counts preferred against them by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC.
The judge upheld the defendants’ no-case submission by dismissing the case mid-way into trial, as he held that the prosecution failed to lead credible evidence to warrant the two men to open their defence.
According to the judge, the SEC Board had, by its resolution, approved the payments which the prosecution had alleged to be illegal and dishonest.
He noted that by virtue of the Investments and Securities Act, the resolution by the SEC board was not subject to a review by any person or authority.
Ruling separately on each of the five counts, three of which related to Gwarzo and two others to Garuba, the judge held, “No prima facie case has been made out by the prosecution in this count, the defendant is hereby discharged and acquitted on this count.”
The judge repeated the same line in his pronouncements on each of the five counts.
The ICPC had filed five counts accusing Gawarzo of receiving, between May and June 2015, the sum of N104,851,154.94 as severance benefit when he had yet to retire, resign or disengage from service; and also the sum of N10,983,488.88 as car grant” he was not entitled to.
In two of the five counts, ICPC accused Garuba, a former Executive Commissioner, Corporate Services of SEC, of conferring corrupt advantage on another public officer in the person of Gwarzo by approving the payments to the suspended SEC boss.
Accusing them of “criminal breach of trust” by “dishonestly misappropriating” public funds entrusted to them, conferring corrupt advantage on Gwarzo, the ICPC accused them of violating provisions of Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 and section 312 of the Penal Code Cap 532 Vol. 4 of FCT, Abuja, 2007.
However, they both pleaded not guilty to the charges following which the prosecution called five witnesses to prove its case.
Upon the completion of the prosecution’s case, the defendants, through their lawyers, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN) and Robert Emukpoeruo, filed their no-case submissions, insisting that the prosecution had failed to make out a prima facie case against them warranting them to open their defence.
Ruling on Thursday, Justice Baba-Yusuf upheld their no-case submissions, holding that they had no case to answer given that the evidence of the prosecution was contradictory and manifestly discredited under cross-examination.
“There is no evidence that the 1st defendant (Gwarzo) used his officer to confer advantage on himself,” the judge. “The evidence of criminal breach of trust was not established and the evidence of the witnesses was discredited under cross-examination.”