Last week, an Apapa Magistrate Court has discharged and acquitted an oil marketing company, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited and its top management staff of the allegations of conspiracy and bribery of members of the Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede-led Presidential Committee on Fuel Subsidy Verification Committee on August 20, 2012.
In his judgment, the presiding magistrate, Mr. Martins Owumi, held that since the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case against the defendants, the only option left for him as a way of doing justice to the case is to discharge and acquit the defendants.
Owumi consequently upheld the no-case submission entered by the defendants.
He submitted that it had been decided in a plethora of cases that in criminal cases, the prosecution has the mandatory burden to prove its case against an accused person beyond reasonable doubt by calling credible and material witnesses to prove all the elements of an offence. He noted that failure to do so would mean that prosecution has failed to prove its case and the defendant would be discharged and acquitted.
The magistrate asserted that it was also trite that the prosecution can only prove its case beyond reasonable doubt if it satisfactorily proved all the elements of the offence against an accused person, saying failure to do so would mean that the charge would fail.
He held that from the proceedings, it was obvious that the prosecution was speculating as none of its evidence supported the charge.The magistrate noted that for the prosecution to secure a conviction, its findings must be supported with concrete and real evidence and not speculation.
He quoted the case of Isah vs State in 2007 where the Court of Appeal held that a criminal court must not base its evidence before the court on speculation to buttress his assertion, adding that otherwise, it would amount to miscarriage of justice.
Owunmi stated that from the case before the court, there were missing links between the offences made against the defendants as the prosecution could not argue its case with credible evidence and elements of the offences.
Part of the magistrate’s judgment read:
“Failure to prove the elements of the charges in this case is failure in all elements listed above. In establishing a causal link between the defendants and the offence charged, no aspect of the enquiry should be left to assumption, speculation of conjecture.
“As stated above, the prosecution failed to prove the elements of the offences of conspiracy, offering of gratification to a public officer and receiving of gratification.
I hold that the said lapses of the prosecution are in favour of the defendants and that the defendants cannot be called upon to enter into their defence based on the watery and speculative evidence of the prosecution.