The Court of Appeal convened via Zoom today, Friday 14th May, 2021 and delivered series of pending judgments amongst which was the appeal against the conviction of four companies said to be linked with Dr. Waripamo Owei Dudafa, an aide to former president Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The EFCC had speculated that the companies were holding funds allegedly belonging to Dame Patience Jonathan, wife of the former president. So, the commission had arrested and charged Dr. Dudafa, Mr. Amajuoyi Briggs, a lawyer who was the secretary to all the companies, Demola Bolodeoku, a bank official and the companies to court in a 15-count charge.
In a desperate move, the EFCC brought certain individuals to court who had confessed that they knew nothing about the companies. They were later allegedly schooled by the commission and trumped up to plead guilty on behalf of the companies so that the monies standing to the credit of the companies could be taken. Counsel challenged their pleas of guilt at the trial court which challenge was refused. Chief Ozekhome SAN further challenged the convictions made pursuant to the pleas but the Federal High Court refused to set it aside.
In a well considered judgment, the Court of Appeal set aside the conviction of Transocean Property & Investment Company Ltd, Seagate Property Development & Investment Ltd, Pluto Property & Investment Company Ltd and Avalon Global Property Development Company Ltd made by Hon. Justice Babs Kuewumi on the 2nd day of November, 2016.
The convictions of the four companies were held to be a nullity having being done in gross disregard of statutory and constitutional provisions. At the Federal High Court, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN led a team of lawyers to challenge the convictions of the companies and sought that the convictions be set aside. The trial court per Babs Kuewumi refused to set aside the conviction.
That decision was appealed by the counsel.
In the four briefs settled by Ige Asemudara Esq., the Appellants in the different but related appeals contended that the circumstances of the conviction of the companies being a nullity, is one in which the court could set aside its own decision. Hence, it was urged on the Court of Appeal to allow the appeal and set aside the conviction. The court of Appeal agreed and set aside the conviction of the four companies especially in view of the fact that the validity of the plea of guilt which was challenged by the Appellant was still yet to be determined before the convictions were made. The court held that the convictions of the four companies breached the fair hearing provisions of the constitution. The lead judgement was read by Hon. Justice C. N. Uwa, Justices Tunde Awotoye and Abundaga agreed with the lead judgment.
The counsel present at the Zoom meeting were Ige Asemudara Esq for the Appellant (all the companies) with him were Ejieke Onuoha and Azubuike Solomon Akpe while Rotimi Oyedepo with A. O. Mohammed appeared for the Respondent.